Not content with dominating in the crime drama category, those Scandinavian television geniuses are taking a highly accurate shot at true crime as well. Earlier in 2021 The Investigation presented a mind-blowing new take on the genre from Denmark, and now the Swedes are getting in on the act with The Hunt for a Killer. It begins airing on BBC Four in the UK starting Saturday 4 September at – you guessed it – 9pm.
It’s Easter and the year is 1989. Sweden is emerging from its cold winter but the disappearance of 10-year-old Helén Nilsson dampens the spring spirit in the small town of Hörby in the south of the country. She was meant to meet two friends at a local shop one afternoon, but never made it to the rendezvous. Six days later, Helén’s brutalised body is discovered. She has been raped and murdered. The six-part series follows detectives Per-Åke ‘Pelle’ Åkesson (Anders Beckman), Monica Olhed (Lotten Roos) and Eric Johansson (Håkan Bengtsson) as they struggle to solve the case and bring Helén’s killer to justice.
To say that their mission won’t be easy is an understatement. It turns out there are around possible 20 paedophiles in the town but as searches are carried out and suspects are interrogated, internal politics and bureaucratic changes in the police department hamper the investigation even further. Although they’re able to solve other murders, Helén’s case starts to slip away from them. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. For the residents of Hörby it means a brutal killer remains in their midst, but for the detectives a strange and twisted side of the town comes to the fore. Perhaps Helén’s case connects to another murder that occurs?
Helén’s mother isn’t giving up – she refuses to place a headstone at her daughter’s grave until the culprit is caught. Even though the case has gone cold, Pelle secretly pursues it and eventually the advent of DNA profiling offers the opportunity to reopen the investigation properly. Maybe now they can bring the killer to justice, more than 15 years after the murder.
The Hunt for a Killer presents a slow and detailed investigation, procedure is accurately adhered to and the operational constraints of the Swedish police are laid bare. Meanwhile, director Mikael Marciman expertly recreates the late-80s and early-90s time period and effectively builds an atmosphere of quiet desperation along with pent up grief and frustration. Swedish reviewers loved the attention to detail, which is evident across the board, as well as the tone of dread and anxiety that envelops the community as the investigation runs out of air and gradually suffocates. Can Pelle, Monica and Eric give the town hope once again? Tune in and find out.
We also recommend you check out The Investigation on iPlayer, if you haven’t already.