Annika Bengtzon – Crime Reporter (2012)

How do these sound to you –

– A murder at the prestigious Stockholm, Sweden event known as the Nobel Prize Banquet?
Does that intrigue you? Have a look at the trailer:

– A super popular TV Talk show host is found murdered in a TV Production truck while on location?
– A girl is raped and murdered, and that’s only on the surface. Beneath the surface, a high government official is trading arms to the Taliban.

Such are the plot lines of the first three episodes of Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter. This six part series was originally broadcast on Swedish TV in 2012. Adapted from the best-selling novels penned by Liza Marklund, the series is available on DVD from Amazon, or you can stream it via Netflix.

The lead character is of course Annika Bengtzon, a crime reporter for a Stockholm paper called Kvãllspressen. She’s a thirty something with two kids and a hubby.

Yes she has a female reporter as a colleague,

a gruff city editor who has a big beer gut, wears suspenders and no tie, and a neat as a pin Editor-in-Chief. There’s a police detective who happens by in every case. Sometimes he’s an opponent and sometimes he’s an ally. It varies from week to week.

The police detective

The police detective

The husband is kind of stereotypical shell of a character meaning  disregarding gender, we get the type of spouse we’ve all seen before – the type that isn’t happy the other spouse is out until all hours – even all night – just to get the story.

In the case of the Nobel Prize banquet we open at the banquet. Why the crime reporter is in attendance instead of the entertainment, celebrity, or fashion writer is a question that arises – but hey – it’s just the opening minutes. She’s chatted up by some medical professor, and in a blink of an eye, and some incidental contact on the dance floor – our reporter is an eye-witness to a double shooting.

Naturally, the police wrap up Annika to question what she saw exactly, then they threaten to detain her, and finally she gets a gag order because she is a witness she cannot write about the case.

In the second case, called Prime Time, the tv host is found shot dead in the production truck. Annika and her photographer head out to the big manor house, and of course she’s there all night waiting for a lead as the police release the rest of the TV production crew one by one. It is sort of like the Monopoly game Clue – and you won’t be surprised when the suspected shooter is Annika’s best friend whose prints were on the murder weapon. You also won’t be surprised when Annika’s husband takes the kids out to his mother’s home in the country so he can brood about missing his wife.

The third case known as Studio Sex, involves a rape/murder, a suspicious trade minister, a government secretary, a charter airline desk clerk, and more hand wringing by Annika’s husband. There’s also a strip-club/gin mill/gambling den that figures in the case. Annika goes to work as a roulette croupier to solve the case.

I think the novels are wildly successful – 13 million books have been sold – but the series won’t do nearly as well. Only six episodes were shot. As Annika, we have Malin Crepin. The character is likeable and certainly persistent. She’s just as likely to not follow orders as she is to drive to seek the truth. She’s got a secret past which we learn about over time.

On the other hand, she’s always getting into distinct trouble because she’s good-hearted and impulsive. She certainly can be slotted into the Do Then Think category. The format of the shows (each runs 90 minutes) is a bit too much like an Agatha Christie mystery – you know – pick the killer out of the usually lengthy list of suspects and false leads, and misdirection clues.. The difference is that in the three cases, I’ve watched, I had no problem tabbing the perp well before the grand reveal.

Still, the show is not without some charms – they’ve done a terrific job of recreating a tabloid city room, the cases are always out on location, and you won’t know many of the actors. I did recognize Anders Ahlbom who was the nefarious Dr. Peter Teleborian in the Millenium Trilogy.

But Stockholm looks charming, and the series wasn’t made on the cheap. I’ve no complaints about the style, the look, the sets, the costumes, etc. All are top-notch. Unfortunately, while I do enjoy the newspaper milieu, and the sleuthing reporter, the stories themselves lack that snap, crackle, and pop that you’d hope for. If you have a Netflix streaming account, then you might want to try it out.

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