Snuggle up with ‘The Valhalla Murders’ drama

Saturday: The Valhalla Murders; (BBC4, 9pm & 9.45pm)

The nights are drawing in, it’s getting colder outside and there’s often a touch of mist in the air…

Yes, it’s the perfect time for a chilling new TV series to start – although, let’s face it, there’s rarely a Saturday evening at any moment of the year when such a show isn’t airing on BBC Four in its 9pm slot. Lovers of international crime dramas and mystery thrillers probably have it ingrained on their psyche, automatically turning on the TV just before the opening credits roll.

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Channel 4 may have a few gems courtesy of Walter Presents, but BBC Four is really where it’s at. After all, this was the broadcaster that introduced everybody to the grandaddy of them all, The Killing, the Danish cop series following the cases led by Inspector Sarah Lund, whose natty knitted sweater became a cultural phenomenon and a star in its own right.


The drama also helped launch the international career of its leading actor, Sofie Grabol, who has since popped up in the US version of The Killing as well as Fortitude, Gentleman Jack and Us; she can currently be seen alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in Sky Atlantic’s The Undoing.

The likes of The Bridge, Darkness: Those Who Kill, Wisting, DNA (which reached its conclusion last week) and many more followed, turning Nordic noir and Scandinavian noir into major genres. Examples of dark drama from other countries also appeared, including Cardinal (Canada), Mystery Road (Australia) and Inspector Montalbano (Italy), while the superb Spiral (France) actually predated The Killing by a year.

One of the best chilling series of the past few years is Trapped, an Icelandic offering starring Olafur Darri Olafsson as Andri, a dogged, thoughtful detective who quietly and determinedly goes about his business, no matter what is going on around him. During the course of two series, we’ve seen him investigate the murder of a politician and tackle environmental issues; a third run is apparently in pre-production.

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While they’re waiting for that to materialise, fans can content themselves with another show from the same nation. The Valhalla Murders will be broadcast, as is often the case, in double-bills over the next four weeks. It’s loosely inspired by a true story from the 1940s and introduces us to detective Kata (Nina Dogg Filippusdottir), who hopes to become Reykjavik’s chief of police in the not too distant future.

When a drug dealer is found murdered at the old harbour, Kata realises that solving the case could help further her ambitions. The dead man’s girlfriend is the chief suspect until a forensic expert points out the crime could not have been carried out by a woman. Then, when another man’s corpse is discovered, Kata’s boss suspects a serial killer is on the loose and calls in Arnar, an ex-pat Icelander who’s been living and working in Norway.

His arrival is a blow to Kata’s professional pride, but if the villain is to be caught, the mismatched duo must learn to work together.

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