Couch Potato, Librocubicularist

Top Ten Murder Series (to read and watch)

May 31, 2016 | 12 comments


Before I moved abroad, I used to spend most of my summer holidays with my grandparents. One of my fondest memories is watching Midsomer Murders with my grandma. It aired on Tuesday evenings and we never missed an episode. She loved a good murder mysteries just as much as I do. It should be no surprise that my favourite summer entertainment* (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish**) is all about great murder series. My top ten favourite detective TV series/films, and the books they are based on, are:

1. Midsomer Murders
This classic British crime drama series, based on Caroline Graham’s books about Chief Inspector Barnaby (starting with the novel The Killings at Badger’s Drift) is what started it all for me. It is set in the villages and towns of the rural counties of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and follows Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and later his cousin DCI John Barnaby (played by Neil Dudgeon) who investigate numerous murders in each episode. It premiered in 1997 and is now on its 18th season (with 110 episodes), and I still love it.

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s mystery series The Story of a Crime, consisting of 10 novels (starting with Roseanna) about the Swedish police detective Martin Beck is another classic, and an absolute must read for fans of Scandinavian crime. 8 of the novels were made into Swedish films between 1967 and 1994, 6 of them starring Gösta Ekman as Martin Beck. An additional 34 films, based on the characters from the books, starring Peter Haber in the title role, have been made between 1997 and 2016.

3. Sherlock
No list of great screen adaptions of mystery novels is complete without the BBC series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective Sherlock Holmes. The show consist of 4 seasons and 10 episodes aired so far, with 3 more episodes to air next year. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are absolutely fabulous as Sherlock and Dr Watson.

4-6. Wallander
The Kurt Wallander Mysteries by Henning Mankell is probably one of the most famous Swedish mystery series. The books are amazing, and the stories works just as well on the screen. There is a Swedish TV series called Wallander, starring Krister Henriksson in the title role, that aired 13 episodes (full-length movies) in 2005-2006, 13 in 2009-2010, and 6 in 2013. Only the very first episode and the first episode of the last season were directly based on Mankell’s books (on Before the Frost and The Troubled Man). Remaining episodes were original stories based on plots written by Mankell but with scripts completed by others. There is also a great British (BBC) adaption, also titled Wallander, with 4 seasons (total 12 episodes) that aired between 2008 and 2016 with Kenneth Branagh in the role of Kurt Wallander. In contrast to the Swedish TV series, all episodes are based on Henning Mankell’s books, although the episodes don’t follow the book’s publication order. For the hard-core Wallander fan (like me) there is also a Swedish film series from 1994 to 2006, consisting of 9 movies based on the Wallander books. In my opinion, these are the best Wallander adaptions, and Rolf Lassgård is the quintessential Kurt Wallander.

7. Maria Wern
I love mysteries set on the Swedish island Gotland, and one of the best is Anna Jansson’s books about police detective Maria Wern. There are 17 books so far, and the Swedish TV series based on them, starring Eva Röse as Maria Wern, is amazing. At present, the show consists of 5 seasons that aired between 2008 and 2016. There are a total of 25 episodes, covering 14 of the 17 books. Like with Wallander, the TV series doesn’t follow the books publication order.

8. Springfloden (Spring Tide)
The most recent addition of great screen adaptions is the Swedish TV series Springfloden, that premiered in March 2016. The first season consists of 10 episodes based on the novel Springfloden (published in English as Spring Tide) by Rolf and Cilla Börjlind, who also wrote the script for the series. The two main characters are police student Olivia Rönning and former police Tom Stilton, played by Julia Ragnarsson and Kjell Bergqvist. Spring Tide is the first in a great trilogy, and I really hope the show will continue with the other two books.

9. Inspector Van Veeteren
Three of the books of Inspector Van Veeteren by Håkan Nesser (published in English as Mind’s Eye,The Return, and Women With Birthmark) were made into Swedish mini-series in 2000 and 2001, starring Sven Wollter as Van Veeteren. 6 of the other books were made into Swedish movies in 2005-2006, also starring Sven Wollter in the lead role.

10. The Millennium Trilogy
Not technically a detective series, but the 3 Swedish films (from 2009) based on Stieg Larsson’s amazing books, starring Michael Nyqvist as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as hacker genious Lisbeth Salander, are just as gritty and amazing as the books. An alternative version of the movies were also aired as a TV mini series, consisting of 6 episodes, that were about 2 hours longer.

Which are your favourites?

* All year round.
** Technically, this week’s topic is favourite beach reads, and I would read all of these series at the beach/park/wherever (and then I would watch the screen adaptions in the evenings).