Varg Veum: a wolf comes a-calling

In an extended moment of muppetry, I avoided reading Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series for decades. Every time a new episode featuring the Norwegian private detective arrived, my vision was averted. I looked the other way, put off by back-cover blurbs which compared the books to Henning Mankell, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. That old…

The Disappearance: compelling Eurocrime

A teenage girl goes missing on midsummer night, after a festival. As it becomes obvious that she’s not coming home, and the police investigation moves from initial disinterest to a potential murder hunt, so it’s revealed that Lea was a young woman with many secrets. And she’s not the only one: just about everyone in…

Victim Without A Face: making a commercial killing

This notionally Nordic noir / Scandi crime novel will go down a storm with the mainstream thriller audience. The blurb compares it to ‘Henning Mankell at his best’… which is total baloney. Mankell wrote carefully considered police procedurals which use credible criminal investigations to explore sombre truths about conflicts in modern liberal societies. Fabian Risk…

Murder: experimental investigations

This is a short series of three, experimental, separate and stand-alone crime dramas, made for TV and screened on BBC2, each an hour long. Each scenario is new and different, and they’re all very much based in ‘possible’ real life situations. The stories start with a dead body, and gradually the timeline of the crime…

Witnesses: a wolf in wolf’s clothing

International crime dramas are frequently compared to those stand-out Scandinavian series, The Killing and The Bridge. ‘Witnesses’ is one of the few which actually lives up to that comparison. It’s a stylish, slightly strange psycho-drama, full of mystery and intrigue. The tightly-woven plot threads confuse, confound and compel the viewer to devour the next episode.…

Frozen Out: a mild winter

This Icelandic police procedural is set prior to the credit crunch, before the dominos started tumbling and an economic house of cards on the fringe of northern Europe collapsed completely. So Frozen Out operates on two separate but interlinked levels. It’s a humdrum local investigation, with a shrewd but going-nowhere rural female police officer dragged…

Wallander: powerful performances to the very end

The final episodes of this Swedish interpretation of Wallander more than live up to the high standards of the earlier series. Given the lead character’s situation – his gradual acceptance of intellectual decline and the onset of dementia – they have the potential to be mawkish, morbid or just plain miserable. But instead each 90-minute…