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Muse's Books

Book 109: The Killing by David Hewson

Book 109: The Killing (The Killing #1).
Author: David Hewson, 2012.
Genre: Nordic Noir. Police procedural. Political Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 720 pages and Unabridged audio (25 hours, 39 mins) read by Christian Rodska.

Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day as a detective with the Copenhagen police department before moving to Sweden. But everything changes when nineteen-year-old student, Nanna Birk Larsen, is found raped and brutally murdered in the woods outside the city. Lund’s plans are put on hold as she leads the investigation along with fellow detective Jan Meyer. While Nanna’s family struggles to cope with their loss, local politician, Troels Hartmann, is in the middle of an election campaign to become the new mayor of Copenhagen. When links between City Hall and the murder suddenly come to light , the case takes an entirely different turn. Over the course of the twisting, tortuous investigation, suspect upon suspect emerges as violence and political intrigue cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer. - synopsis from author's website.

As Hewson had said about the project in an interview: "This is the TV series reimagined as a book, but with a few major twists in the narrative." Although the novel doesn't follow the script word by word, it is a very faithful adaptation. I had fallen in love with Forbrydelsen (The Killing), the original Danish TV series, when it was first aired on BBC along with its lead character Sarah Lund with her iconic black & white (and white & black) jumpers. Since then I have watched it a few times. Like other cult TV shows and films, it stands up to repeat viewings. So I was thrilled last autumn to read that David Hewson, whose Nic Costa series I have so enjoyed over the last couple of years, had been engaged to write a literary adaptation of the series in English and eagerly awaited its publication.

I felt that Hewson did an excellent job of taking the original material and enhancing it, giving deeper insights into various characters and events. In terms of the setting I knew from following his Twitter feed that Hewson had spent time in Copenhagen during the time he was writing the novel as well as consulting with Forbrydelsen's creator, Søren Sveistrup. This served the narrative well as obviously when watching a television production there are the visual cues for culture, atmosphere and setting including weather conditions; aspects that need to be translated into words in order to gain a full experience when reading a book.

While there is some controversy about the changes Hewson has made to the ending, this was something I was forewarned about from various sources. I felt that these were actually quite organic in terms of the narrative. 'The Killing' certainly works well as a stand-alone novel as well as a treat for fans of the series eager for more. I surprised myself by both listening to its 25+ hour audio edition and then reading its print edition; overall finding it a compulsive experience. With the audiobook I found that after experiencing the actors speaking Danish with subtitles, it did take me a short while to get used to Christian Rodska's use of broad English accents for some characters, especially Jan Meyer.

It is a novel that I'm planning to recommend to one of my reading groups when it is published paperback.

David Hewson's page on 'The Killing'.
Tags: crime fiction, police drama, political thriller

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