Sunday, August 18, 2013

International Mystery: Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter

Whenever I watch an episode of Annika Bengtzon, a Swedish mystery series, I'm reminded of a comic book character I used to read as a kid, Brenda Starr, Reporter.   Brenda Starr, the comic, was created in the 1940's as a tough, glamorous and adventurous woman reporter for a major newspaper, at a time when most women reporters were relegated to the "style" or "home" pages.  I used to read it decades later as part of the comics page of every Sunday newspaper.  I should also mention the creator of Brenda Starr was a woman, Dale Messick

Annika Bengtzon, the Swedish TV Series, is based on the novels of Liza Marklund,

 Malin Crepin (Annika Bengtzon) and Liza Marklund

Liza Marklund is a journalist and crime novelist who is also know for the Maria Ericksson novels. I haven't read any of Ms. Marklund's books, but they are available in English translation.  

I've watched all the Annika Bengtzon episodes aired so far on MHz Networks, who are my primary and much loved source of international TV series, and has become another favorite Nordic Noir series produced by Yellow Bird.

Annika is an intrepid modern woman journalist working for a Swedish newspaper tabloid.  The series deals with how Annika balances, or doesn't, her home life of two small children and husband, with her demanding career as a journalist.  Of course, this being a detective/crime TV series, Annika gets involved in life threatening scrapes each and every series. Also she is better at solving crimes than all the Swedish police detectives she mines for information, or indeed better than any police detective around the world. 

One thing I like about European and UK crime series in general is that the lead character's home life seems more based on reality than many US TV series. The characters deal with elderly parents, unhappy spouses, painful divorce, bad dates, troubled children, and many life issues we can all identify with in our daily lives. Annika is dealing with the question many women ask themselves, can they have it all, home life and career.  She often has to go off on assignment away from home leaving the children to her husband's care. He also is ambitious and rising up the ranks of his government career, and resents Annika's expectation that he drop everything to care for the kids, while she flies off somewhere.  Aside from her husband, she often has to rely on her unsympathetic mother-in-law to care for the kids.  Though at the beginning Annika and Thomas seem a happy couple, as he feels more neglected by her, things start to go wrong.

Thomas Samuelsson (Richard Ulfsater) and Annika Bengtzon (Malin Crepin) at home

If I had to quibble with something in this series, it would be "Annika the Wonder Woman." Sometimes she gets into fights with almost entire armies of men with guns, or with physically strong men, and comes away triumphant with barely a scratch. Though it is exciting to see Annika win such a fight, it really is unrealistic that she often does so without any help from the police or even one of her colleagues. 

There is a theory that all fictional detectives have a "Watson", and if Annika has one then it is her colleague Berit Hamrin played by Kajsa Ernst.  Berit is a middle-aged and seasoned journalist who often provides the younger Annika with a wealth of experience and perspective on what goes on in the world.  Another plus for the series is this relationship of two women colleagues of different generations, working together and supporting each other in the workplace. 

The crimes that Annika reports on and helps solve are taken from today's headlines, from drug cartels to prostitution rings, she covers them all.  Though an attractive young woman, I also like the fact that she is far from glamorous in her daily life, often having a bad hair day like the rest of us, or schlepping her big work tote bag, and the children's toys at the same time. We can all imagine being Annika Bengtzon. 

For more information on the Annika Bengtzon series on MHz Networks go to the link below:

Photos, and etc. from Google Images, Wikipedia, Imdb, and

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