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 to relocate 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.
David’s recreation of The Killing as an epic crime tragedy reworks the story for book form, taking readers into the minds of the key characters involved, reshaping some parts of the plot, and reimagining the conclusion of this compelling tale. If you thought you knew The Killing… think again.
What they said
Toby Clements in the Telegraph (five star review) David Hewson – the author of more than a dozen detective novels set in Italy and with no need to stoop to anything too hurriedly commercial – has taken what was television gold and turned it into literary gold. This is one of the most engrossing detective novels I’ve read in a long time, with no easy solutions or insulting pay-offs and no easy moral to its story.
The Literary Review David Hewson has achieved the seemingly impossible. His novelisation of the drama is a different take on the original…just as gripping as the television serial. Whether you missed, hated or love The Killing on TV, this book is worth reading.
Mirror (Book of the Week) (Hewson’s) clear, clipped prose is beautifully up to the task, as is his attention to the original’s forensic details. There’s the Faroese jumper-clad Lund, listening to no one and everyone while staring blankly at her homicide colleague, the immature Jan Meyer, There’s the super-smooth mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann struggling to keep secret his dirty past. At this point you might be questioning just why Hewson bothered when the TV series clearly said it all. However stick with it as he subtly begins to change the plot and the emphasis. And the ending leaves a very different, but no less thought-provoking taste.
Daily Mail (This) must have been a daunting task, especially since Hewson had never even visited Denmark before embarking on this Herculean task. The result is a very fine novel, which is more of a re-imagining of the original story than a carbon copy – and with the bonus of a brand new twist to the ending. It is a different experience reading the book to viewing the thriller on screen – but just as fulfilling. Instead of struggling with subtitles, the reader is able to plumb new depths of this stunning political intrigue, and gain fresh insight into the characters – the principal cast of which is helpfully set out at the beginning.
The Observer At its peak last year, the Bafta-winning Danish crime series The Killing seemed to be generating more column inches about detective Sarah Lund’s on-trend knitwear than it had viewers. Spin-offs were inevitable, and while the US television version was unnecessary, David Hewson’s literary translation is far more than a cheap tie-in. It helps that Hewson is a crime novelist of some regard, and while he sticks to the fast pace of the television drama, the book allows the characters more room to breathe.
It means the emotional heart of the show is much more clearly defined: it’s less a whodunnit in Hewson’s hands, more a series of interlinked human tragedies. Hewson spent time in Copenhagen to get the bleak atmosphere just right. It shows. And yet in changing the ending he also makes a bold statement about the techniques required for satisfying drama on the page. All of which makes The Killing an excellent stand-alone novel – but perhaps Hewson’s greatest achievement is that it’s compelling reading, too, for those who have already sat through a 20-hour television series.
Michael Dobbs in the Express It is an act of either folly or considerable courage to turn a television series into a novel. What is there for the author to give that hasn’t already been dished up? If the TV series has become a huge cult success such as the Danish police thriller The Killing the scales tip firmly towards folly. Here however is a novel in the hugely experienced hands of David Hewson that defies expectation. Hewson’s style is tight, lean, almost like a film script. The action follows the lines of the TV plot closely but like all good novelists he insists on leaving his own mark by creating a major new twist that comes at you like an unguided missile.
He, like Lund, doesn’t slow down to take prisoners. Scandinavian dramatists have ice in their porridge. They don’t seem to do happy endings and this is no exception. Unsavoury politicians, corrupt PR advisers, police officers stubborn to the point of stupidity, each pursuing the other as a kaleidoscopic list of clues run across the pages like a disorderly cavalry regiment. This is Killing territory after all. Only brave souls should enter.
Tessa Dunlop on Classic FM This book is so much more than a straightforward whodunnit. (As was the series, it has to be said.) It’s Shakespearean in its scope and its tragedy. For those of you who’ve already watched the series, and therefore know the killer and wonder why there would be an appeal in the book itself, take it from me: the book shines a whole new light on this criminal mystery. Hewson, clearly keen to have the last word (which man isn’t?), adds to the story when he provides an ingenious twist at the end which, in many ways, does what the series didn’t: it links up many of the red herrings from earlier in the action, leaving you to wonder, ‘No really, who did kill Nanna Birk Larsen?’
Irish Times The book is an excellent read in which the author manages to dig deeper into the characters without having to rewrite their original television characterisation. For those who haven’t seen the series, this is a very cleverly constructed and beautifully written crime drama; for those who already know the ending, a new twist awaits.
Morpeth Herald This is a great read. If you love crime fiction, this is a must, and if you loved The Killing, this is a must.
Irish Examiner (Hewson) adds a real depth to the characters, as they are allowed to develop more with his words than on the TV screen. The best bit of the whole book is his alternative ending, which is a refreshing twist. It’s a fast-paced crime novel that’s five-star from start to finish.
Booklist This is such a good book, so rich in its characters and writing, that familiarity with its source material is completely unnecessary. Its story, in which a Copenhagen police detective lands a politically sensitive murder case the day before she’s scheduled to move to Sweden, is wonderfully told. Hewson is, of course, the author of several excellent mysteries, including the popular Nic Costa novels, and he was an excellent choice here: his own elegant prose style perfectly captures the mood of the story.
Not merely a spin-off of a high profile television property, this is a fully realized novel that stands on its own two feet, while at the same time reimagining the television series, taking its characters and story in new directions and exploring them in new ways. A splendid book and perhaps a new benchmark for literary adaptations of screen stories.
The second Pieter Vos book, The Wrong Girl, is now available in the UK from Pan Macmillan and in Dutch as Het Verkeerde Meisje from Boekerij.
And look out for David’s first Italian novel in some years, The Flood. A standalone set in Florence mainly in 1986 it is published by Severn House.