Scandinavia’s broadcast output has been so thoroughly mined by TV channels over the last few years that it often seems that we must have seen every last bit of drama output from that part of the world. So when you find a piece of Nordic Noir going straight to DVD with little fanfare it’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that it must be pretty bad, even before reading the description of the show which makes it seem like some light-hearted bit of cosy crime that would make Murder, She Wrote feel like Tolstoy.
I took a risk getting the DVD of The Fjällbacka Murders nonetheless, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that neither suspicion had any merit whatsoever. The first story, “The Hidden Child”, had a cinema release in Sweden and had appropriately high production values, with top quality photography, editing, and direction by Per Hanefjord as well as a classy if conventional score, while Maria Karlsson has done a very solid job in adapting Camilla Läckberg’s novel for the screen giving the potentially complex story a very nice and coherent shape to it.
“The Hidden Child” centres around author Erica Falck whose parents die suddenly in a car accident. As she moves back to the family home in the picture postcard seaside resort of Fjällbacka with her police officer husband Patrik (Richard Ulfsäter) and their new baby, Erica finds a strange man in the house who claims to be her previously unknown brother. Digging into her mother’s past during World War 2, Erica uncovers a brutal murder amid wartime infiltration and collaboration with the Nazis, and soon the events of decades ago resurface with new crimes being committed in the modern day by someone desperate for the secrets not to be revealed.
While The Fjällbacka Murders is not in the league of Forbrydelsen or The Bridge for example, it’s solid and well-made Scandi fare that fits in comfortably with the likes of the long-running Beck and Wallander series and is eminently watchable. Why it has never been shown on BBC Four or any other UK channel is a bit of a mystery, unless the remaining five stories in the collection (all made for TV rather than theatrical release) show a sudden sharp decline in quality. I certainly hope that’s not the case as I’m looking forward to watching more over the coming months.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
The Fjällbacka Murders is available on DVD from Arrow’s Nordic Noir label