January 2015: some crime drama treats

Here we all are in a shiny new year. Wishing you and yours a very happy 2015!

There are a number of wonderful crime dramas heading our way in January. Here’s a quick round up of four goodies…

Y Gwyll / Hinterland, S4C, 9pm on Thursday 1 January 

Today sees a special, one-off episode for fans of this bilingual, Welsh-English crime drama. Here’s the S4C description >> Troubled hero DCI Mathias returns to the front-line in this brand new episode. Faced with a suspected arson attack, Mathias is drawn into a community riven by old feuds and bitter jealousies. A story of heartbreak and loss, but for Tom Mathias, will it offer a new beginning? <<

Head over to the S4C website for further information (in English), a trailer and details of how to activate subtitles. If you don’t have access to S4C, don’t worry – you’ll be able to access it later via S4C Clic online (the Welsh equivalent of iPlayer). The episode will no doubt also appear on BBC1 in due course. An earlier Mrs. Peabody post on Y Gwyll is available here, and a new series follows later in 2015.

Fortitude, Sky Atlantic, 9pm on Thursday 29 January

There’s an increasing amount of buzz about this series in the press. Drawing on Scandi Noir traditions, it features a stellar international cast (Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Sofie Gråbøl, Christopher Eccleston), is set in a mining community in the Arctic Circle and was filmed in Iceland. From where I’m standing, that’s an impossible combination to resist.

Sky’s description is as follows: >> Fortitude is a place like nowhere else. Although surrounded by the savage beauty of the Arctic landscape, it is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now. In such a close-knit community a murder touches everyone and the unsettling, mysterious horror of this crime threatens the future of the town itself.

The local Chief of Police, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Dormer), has to investigate alongside DCI Morton (Tucci), the detective who has flown into Fortitude so fast that questions are being asked about how much he knew, and when. As these two cops try to make sense of the killing, each finds compelling reasons to mistrust and suspect the other. <<

Further details are available here and there’s a preview clip too…

Broadchurch, ITV, Monday 5 January

Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) return for the second series of this crime drama set on the Dorset coast. I absolutely loved the first series and am intrigued to see where the storyline goes after the explosive revelations of the final episode.

Spiral, BBC4, 9pm on Saturday 10 January (12 episodes)

The fifth season of this gritty French crime drama will be a welcome addition to BBC4’s international crime slot on Saturday evenings. I’ll resist providing a description of the first episode in case there are some who’ve not yet seen the end of season 4 (that includes me), but if you’re interested in knowing more, you can head over to the BBC4 website.

Crime Time Preview has a useful round up of further crime dramas (British and international) that are scheduled for 2015. It looks to be a promising year.

Wishing you all a fabulous start to 2015. My January’s going to be a bonkers one, trying to juggle a number of different publishing and academic commitments, so I may be posting a little less than usual this month. It’s all good though – and I look forward to reporting on a completed project soon 🙂

Saturday smörgåsbord: Richard III, Petrona Remembered and Spiral 4

This week has seen lots of interesting crime news – a veritable smörgåsbord of delights.

The confirmation that the bones found under a Leicester car park are indeed those of King Richard III, has resulted in some knock-on coverage for Scottish crime writer Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. This 1951 classic tops the Crime Writers’ Association list of 100 best crime novels, and shows Inspector Grant ‘re-open’ the case of ‘the princes in the Tower’ whilst laid up in hospital with a broken leg. Can he really prove that Richard is not the callous murderer that history paints him to be…?

An interesting article in the Canadian Globe and Mail explores the value of the novel’s critique of history, and its assertion that many historical narratives are falsely constructed for political ends. Nikolai Krementsov, professor of the history of science and technology at the University of Toronto, gives it to his students to illustrate the difference between primary and secondary sources, and says ‘I know no book that gives such as clear account of what history is and what its function is in society … It should be mandatory reading for historians, investigative journalists and policemen’.

He also points out that Tey is writing at the beginning of the Cold War, a time of enormous political transition when lots of inconvenient wartime facts were in the process of being forgotten. ‘In that atmosphere, she wrote a definitive account, not of Richard III, but of how history can be manipulated’.

This week saw the birth of a new crime fiction blog, Petrona Remembered,  which has been set up in memory of the wonderful crime blogger Maxine Clarke.

The team behind the site aims ‘to develop a resource for current and future fans of the genre and we want you to help us. We’re asking writers, bloggers, readers, translators and anyone else who loves a crime or mystery novel to send us a submission about that book. It can be a review, a pitch, a love letter, a poem or, a video. Or something else entirely. Each week we’ll post a new submission and, over time, this site will become a jumping off point to a world of much-loved crime fiction’.

I personally like the idea of a crime haiku :). Submissions great and small are welcome, and you can find out more here.

A new annual award, The Petrona, for the best Scandinavian crime novel, is also being established. Maxine was particularly partial to some top-notch Scandi crime, so this feels very fitting.

Last but not least, for those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms from Borgen, help is on the way in the form of Spiral series 4. Parisian Captain Laure Berthaud and her colleagues are back as of tonight for 12 gritty episodes, taking over the BBC4 Saturday evening ‘international slot’ from 9.00pm until 11.00pm.

Further information and a clip from the first episode can be found here.

Spiral 2 and ‘Romanzo Criminale’

Following the Sebastian Bergman two-parter, BBC4 will be repeating series 2 of Spiral (Engrenages) from this Saturday, 9 June, at 9.00pm. It looks like there will be two episodes each week, following the pattern of The Killing, Borgen and the like.

For those catching up, there’s a nice little review in the Radio Times to set the scene.

Spiral: gritty and urban, innit?

While looking around the website, an Italian crime series that aired back in October 2011, but is being repeated on Sky Arts 1, also caught my eye. Romanzo Criminale (‘Crime Novel’) has been styled as an ‘Italian Killing’ (pure hype, as the two series are completely different to one another), but I must say that I like the look of it, especially given its interesting historical and political setting.

70s mobster chic means looooaads of wonga

Amy Raphael describes the series in her Radio Times article as follows:

‘Set in Rome between 1977 and 1992, Romanzo Criminale has been an Italian television sensation, based on the exploits of a real-life criminal street gang.

La Banda della Magliana was a mob of fearless, ultraviolent suburban youths, who became, in the words of judge [and author] Giancarlo de Cataldo, “a real criminal power”.

De Cataldo’s novel [on La Banda] was first made into a film, but the television series that followed has aired in Italy to rapturous acclaim. One broadsheet called it “perhaps the best series ever made in Italy”, while another insisted that “it’s the only Italian series of which we can be proud… that we can export abroad”.

Opening in 1977, the drama is sharply written, beautifully shot, funny, violent and political. These were Italy’s “years of lead” when student protesters fought the police and the Red Brigades tried to destabilise the country. It’s a compelling backdrop for a series that’s brutally honest about Italy’s bloody criminal past.’

Has anyone already seen the series, and if so, what did you think of it?

BBC4 Spiral Season 3: Was I wrong to stop watching?!

In an earlier post I gave my reaction to the first two episodes of the French police procedural series Spiral (Engrenage).

It was a bit mixed: while I enjoyed the charactisation of Laure Berthaud and the urban noir feel, I was somewhat put off by the grisly autopsy scenes.

And although I said at the end of the post I would probably continue watching, I didn’t return the following Saturday (something came up, the hamster needed cleaning out, you know how it is…). And that was that – I never quite managed to catch up.

Now that the series has finished, my question to Spiral-watchers is:

  • Have I make a grave mistake (pardonnez the pun)?
  • Should I give Spiral another go?
  • If you think I should have kept watching, should I start at series 1 and work my way through in order, or just dive in with series 3?

Answers on a postcard please…or by comment below.


BBC4 Spiral Season 3: The Butcher of La Villette

Tonight I caught the first two episodes of the French police procedural series Spiral (Engrenage in the original; literal translation ‘gears’).

My primary reason for watching Spiral was to fill the two-hour viewing gap left by The Killing, but I was also curious about the French series, having heard praise for seasons 1 and 2.  It was a interesting start tonight, and could easily become compelling viewing for me, as this crime drama features yet another strong female investigator, Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust). As in The Killing, the first two episodes also set up a number of complex characters, plotlines and intrigues, and redefine our image of the cities in question by focusing on the gritty underbellies of Copenhagen and Paris (the Little Mermaid and Eiffel Tower are conspicuous by their absence).

I wasn’t as gripped by the opening episodes of Spiral as those of The Killing, but then again, this might be an unfair expectation, especially as I’m coming in cold to season 3, and don’t have the in-depth knowledge of the investigative team that has been built up over previous two seasons.

One aspect I really didn’t like, however, was the graphic nature of the autopsy scenes. While a key focus of the series is forensic policework, I’m not convinced it was necessary to provide so much stomach-churning visual detail. And a side-effect of covering my eyes during those scenes was that I was unable to read the subtitles, thus no doubt missing vital clues!

So a slightly mixed experience for this viewer. But I reckon I’ll be back for another two episodes next week. Those who are intending to watch the whole series (10 parts) will be interested to know that The Guardian is blogging Spiral 3 episode by episode. A splendid public service. Merci!