Sebastian Bergman: Review of Episode 1 (with a little word on Episode 2)

Today I managed to catch up with the first installment of the Swedish crime series Sebastian Bergman, which originally aired last Saturday on BBC4. My expectations were pretty low having viewed a dire trailer made by the German broadcaster ZDF (see my earlier comments here), but happily, ‘The Cursed One’ turned out to be a decently-made, entertaining 90 minutes of crime.

The key investigative figure, Professor Sebastian Bergman, is a renowned Swedish profiler of unpleasant disposition: he’s tetchy, uncooperative, and a serial seducer of vulnerable women. Although we find out the main reason for this behaviour, he remains a troubled and rather unlikable figure, and is nicely portrayed by the actor Rolf Lassgård (well known to Henning Mankell fans as the ‘first’ TV Wallander). 

The opening episode shows Bergman inching back into policework after an extended break, following the brutal murder of a 15-year-old boy. The investigation proceeds at a brisk pace (we work through as many suspects as in the whole of The Killing 1 by the end of the first hour), uncovering a number of suburban secrets on the way. The denouement is reasonably satisfying, although I couldn’t help but be amused at how wide of the mark Bergman’s perpetrator profiling had been. 

In sum: a good start with some potential, should the relationship between Bergman and his police colleagues be allowed to develop more. There’s a nice little twist at the end that augers well.

Update on 8 June: I’ve just caught up with Episode 2, and wasn’t quite as enamoured as many people seem to have been on Twitter. As this blog’s readers will know, I’m not a fan of serial killer narratives / misogynist violence, so points had to be taken off from the word go. In addition, the development of the plot felt wholly predictable… Would I watch more Sebastian Bergman if it came to our screens? Probably, but it won’t be at the top of my list of Saturday night treats.

Saturday treats: Sebastian Bergman / CWA International Dagger / Israeli crime fiction

Three little treats on this lovely sunny day in the UK.

1. For fans of Swedish crime and of Wallander actor Rolf Lassgård: the ‘police thriller’ Sebastian Bergman begins tonight on BBC4 at 9pm. See the second half of this earlier post for an overview and trailer.

Photo from BBC/ZDF

2. CRIMEFEST 2012 – the annual International Crime Fiction Convention – is in full swing in Bristol this weekend. While extremely sad to be missing the party, I’m enjoying tweets on the various panels from @Eurocrime and @NicciPrasa amongst others. The hashtag for the event is #crimefest12.

Thrillingly, the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) shortlists for the following ‘Daggers’ were announced there last night: International, Historical, Non-Fiction, Library, Short Story and Debut. Thanks to Rhian over at ‘It’s a Crime! (Or a Mystery…)’ for a comprehensive listing of all the works shortlisted.  

There are 6 works listed for the International Dagger (‘crime, thriller, suspense or spy fiction novels which have been translated into English from their original language, for UK publication’):

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli (Mantle)
I will have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni, trans. by Anne Milano Appel (Hersilia Press)
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson, trans. by Laurie Thompson (Quercus/Maclehose)
Trackers by Deon Meyer, trans. by T K L Seegers (Hodder & Stoughton)
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, trans. by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, trans. by Joseph Farrell (Quercus/Maclehose)

Further details about the novels are available via the CWA website here.

And over at Petrona, you’ll find a list of all International Dagger winners since 2006, along with a wealth of links to reviews and CWA webpages (thanks, Maxine, for this excellent resource).

3. A guest post on Israeli crime fiction by Uri Kenan at the ‘Detectives Beyond Borders’ blog caught my eye this week. For someone like me, who knew nothing about the history of crime fiction in Israel, it was a very illuminating read. I’m already looking forward to part 2, which I imagine will look at more contemporary offerings.

Peter Rozovsky, who runs the blog, is also at CrimeFest at the moment, and has already posted three reports, which are well worth a read

I hope the sun is shining for all of you wherever you are: have a lovely weekend.