A Retro Crime Series

A few weeks ago, I saw the first episode of a new detective series on television (available on amazon as "Crimes of Passion"), based on a book series (three novels available in English on Kindle) by Maria Lang (pen name for Dagmar Lange) that was first published in 1949 and that she kept writing until 1990, which featured her rural Swedish version of Lord Peter Wimsey (or so the Wikipedia article on her claims - I find the comparison preposterous), Christer Wijk. I didn´t really know what to expect, I hadn´t read the books, but I was surprised how well made it was (though not perfect, for sure). It has a funny kind of noir vibe to it, as well as a 50´s retro milieu, with a slightly anachronistic adaptation to suit modern (feminist) sensibilities (which I know now, since having read three of the novels). And, of course, excellent actors, some of whom can say some pretty corny dialogue without making the audience too embarassed, particularly Tuva Novotny, who is perhaps the best Swedish actress of her generation.

Borrowed from tv4. Wahlgren, Novotny, and Rapace.
Actually, my first thought, about five minutes into the first episode, was how much the male body has changed over the last decades. One hears all the time how fashions have changed for the female body, from the 20´s gamine to the 50´s bosomy glamour girl, the 70´s fresh-faced "Charlie" girl to the heroin chic Kate Moss of the 90´s. But think how the male body has changed since body building started to become mainstream in the late 80´s, early 90´s. You know, when I started going to the gym in 1992 or thereabouts, I still had friends who refused to lift a single dumbbell, as they thought it would make them instantly look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though they were girls. The pumped up bodies of Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were controversial in those days, I remember a lot of heated discussions for or against that kind of training.

Borrowed from Finnish television.
Now, there are very few actors who doesn´t look like that, to some extent. (And even a fair amount of regular people, at least here, where winter outdoors training for the desk bound male is grim, and the gym a cozy option. I just have to look over at the husband and remember that he comes from a stock of wiry lumber jacks!) But they didn´t look like that in the 50´s (and they ate differently) which is why this first episode felt a bit off to me. Yes, the male actors Ola Rapace (ex-husband of more internationally known Noomi) and Linus Wahlgren do look very dishy in their suits, hats, topcoats, bowties and slipovers. And sleeve garters! Remember those? My dad used to wear them all the time, and I had a pair myself (I nicked some of his old 60´s suits and wore all through the 80´s). Now they accent the fact that both Rapace (particularly Rapace) and Wahlgren have very sexy upper arms. Novotny is made out more like a tomboy, but the other women in the series are gorgeously made out in colourful gowns, pinched waists and high hair.

(a short peak from tv4 on youtube)

Maria Lang wasn´t anything we read, in my generation. My mother didn´t read her either (at least I think not). The characters have been much changed. The narrator and our hero, Puck, is not a perky little 50´s academic young wife who stumble over corpses left and right, but rather a serious, introverted career-woman with a taste for analysis and writing crime fiction. Her husband Eje has been changed from what Puck has now become (in the books he is the crime writer), into a bumbling, slightly naiv teacher who goes back and forth between being proud of his wife and jealous of her attachment to his oldest friend and the real hero: police investigator Christer Wijk, who in the books is a skinny, tall, jovial, pipe-smoking man with a taste for checked tweed (even in summer), a father-figure for Puck. In the films, he is a sexy womanizer, a real contender to Eje, at the end of most episodes making due with a widow or other woman left-over from their latest investigation when Puck has turned away from his advances (yeah, his best friend´s wife, but he can´t help himself because of the passion, you see...).

Maria Lang would not have approved, I´m sure, though she was no stranger, even in the 40´s, to writing quite candidly about sex. Still, the films are entertaining, and so are the books, as long as you take them for what they are. I like. Oddly, I like quite a lot, both the books and the films.


  1. I've never heard of this author or the series.I'll have to keep an eye out for it. I don't remember it ever having been shown here.

    1. No, I don´t think she had any great fame outside of Scandinavia. It seems to me this film series is riding on the wave of "Scandi Crime" that seems so popular. The Brits are crazy for Danish and Swedish noir drama, it seems, and they and the Americans are each re-making "Bron" and whatnot. This is more on the quaint side, the noir vibe is very tongue in cheek. Alternatively, it´s I who can´t take it seriously... No, definitely mischievous.