Do you miss Wallander? While there will never be an exact substitute, Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders does offer the opportunity to escape to a mysterious landscape of dark forests, mirror-surfaced lakes and creepy bogland where isolation creeps up on you like a killer in the night.
Showing on More 4 in the UK from 19 January for seven weeks, this Swedish crime drama based on the novels of Asa Larsson. After airing on television, episodes are available to stream on Walter Presents. At 87 minute in length, episode one sees lawyer Rebecka Martinsson offered a partnership with a big Stockholm law firm but seconds later she receives a phone call from Kurravaara up in the Arctic Circle. An old friend has died in an accident in the church.
Rebecka makes the journey north and is soon in the thick of it. She establishes that Mildred may not have died at the scene and could have been murdered. Played by Ida Engvoll (The Team, The Bridge), Rebecka convinces the pregnant police detective Anna-Marie Mella (Eva Melander) to re-open the case and a complex murder enquiry ensues. Someone is shadowing them, for a start, and the stakes are upped when it’s revealed that the local rifle club had a beef with the victim. As she stirs things up in the community she left behind, Rebecka renews ties with old neighbours and befriends a young man with Down’s Syndrome called Nalle (Jonas Wiman). She begins to realise that her friend Mildred had made several enemies in the area.
While the programme doesn’t have the intensity or atmosphere of shows like The Killing or The Bridge, it will appeal to fans of Acquitted thanks to its wild and beautiful setting. Rebecka drives up and down the long, straight roads that connect the tumbledown communities around Kiruna, where the main industry is iron mining and where tourist interest in Arctic and ice hotel holidays is growing. It’s all wood panel houses, painted in pale pastel colours, sawmills and old wooden churches that creek in the wind, and the author Asa Larsson herself grew up in the area. The locals like guns, bad facial hair and moonshine. In summer the sun doesn’t go down, while in winter it doesn’t come up. Both midnight sun and endless night are represented across the seven episodes.
Based on the books
The programme was made by Yellow Bird, also responsible for the Wallander TV series and the Millennium movies, and drew a 30 per cent share of the TV audience when it aired in Sweden last year. The first episode is based on the second book in Asa Larsson’s series, The Blood Spilt. The subsequent episodes cover The Black Path, Until Thy Wrath Be Past and The Second Deadly Sin in two parts each. The novels are also well worth it, if you enjoy Scandinavian crime fiction.