Grumbleweed on the case

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Book Awards, Denmark, Scandinavia, Sweden, tv crime fiction

LeifMr Crime Scraps has made a vow to be nice with his blog comments this year  so I, Grumbleweed, have taken over the blog for today. I do hope I won’t be dragged out of retirement too often. Of course listening to the young whiz kid whippersnappers who work for the BBC this old dinosaur has  learned a lot about the world; Death Valley is in Nevada; Quisling was a Swede; and a couple of weeks ago I was told Istanbul is the capital of Turkey.  Have they moved it recently?

But as Mr Crime Scraps prepares his review on Hakan Nesser’s The Strangler’s Honeymoon, he read it so quickly it must be good, I noticed the cover of the next book he is reading. He Who Kills The Dragon by Leif G.W.Persson. On this is an anonymous blurb which states ‘If You Liked The Killing You’ll Love This. I presume they are comparing the popular Danish TV series with the novel He Who Kills The Dragon [HWKTD]. I haven’t read the novelisations of the TV series but I watched and enjoyed all the series of The Killing. Life is too short to go over old territory however well written.

The comparison between the TV series and the novel is bizarre to say the least. Why would liking one mean you would love the other? The Killing is set in Copenhagen, Denmark. HWKTD in Stockholm, Sweden. Two different countries. The Killing features as its main protagonist a sexy female detective Sarah Lund, who is attractive, liberal in her attitudes, conscientious at work, and wears snuggly Faroese jumpers. HWKTD features Evert Backstrom, a lazy incompetent, heavy drinking, obese, racist, misogynist, homophobe. There is only one person who finds Evert Backstrom remotely attractive, and that is Evert Backstrom.

The Backstrom books are brilliant satires on the Swedish state, written by Leif G.W.Persson, Scandinavia’s most renowned criminologist, Professor at the National Police Board, and a three time winner [1982,2003,and 2010] of Best Swedish Crime novel of the year. The character of Backstrom reminds me a bit of Alf Garnett, in the comedy Till Death Do Us Part that graced British TV screens in the 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately some people took Alf Garnett seriously, and did not understand his racist comments were meant to shock people into realising the stupidity of his attitudes. Backstrom’s extremism is hilarious simply because he is so outrageous, but someone unprepared and expecting Backstrom to be a male version of Sarah Lund might not “love” passages such as:

Darkies, darkies, darkies, Backstrom thought, sighing heavily somewhere deep inside. He would never dream of saying it out loud. Not after all the stories  he had heard about Peter Niemi, who was also a foreigner, a bastard Finn, and a northern foreigner to be more precise, and evidently best friends with the twenty-years-younger Hernandez.


What the hell is happening to the Swedish police? Faggots, dykes, darkies and the usual yes-men. Not a single ordinary police constable as far as the eye can see.

Evert Backstrom is probably about as far as you can get from Sarah Lund on the spectrum of police detectives, and it is about time publishers stopped comparing every Scandinavian writer to Stieg Larsson, or Jo Nesbo, or The Killing.  

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Mr. Grumbleweed – I agree completely about such comparisons. There’s no need at all for them. And making them does no justice as you say to the authors, characters or adaptations that are compared. Well said. Oh, and would you please let Mr. Crime Scraps know I’m looking forward to his review of Strangler’s Honeymoon? Thanks

  2. TracyK says:

    That is a very strange comparison (not that I have seen The Killing), and I dislike such comparisons myself. Publishers just want to sell books and don’t care if the buyer is disappointed.

  3. Your comment about the constant comparisons to Larrson et al is dead right

  4. kathy d. says:

    Okay, the comparisons may be off-base, but thanks for talking about the offensive aspects of this book. Neither my walls nor blood pressure are up to reading this one, with all of the misogyny and racism. I wonder at those enlightened souls who can read books like this, but my tolerance for it is low, if it exists at all.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Kathy-I suspect Prof Persson created Evert Backstrom simply to shock readers.

    In that he certainly succeeds, because if I, with my very thick skin, find his constant racism and misogyny a bit wearing other more sensitive souls might be offended. It is difficult because I found myself laughing not with Backstrom, but at him, while at the same time feeling guilty that I felt his astonishing behaviour was in any way funny.

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