Tag Archives: NORDIC NOIR


Stream verb (SEND): To send continuous sound or moving images using computers. Wi-fi networking allows you to stream music from a PC to the device. This one.

Stream verb (FLOW): To move continuously. Tears streamed down her cheeks; Record numbers of applications were streaming into our offices; Sunlight was streaming through the window. Not this one.

I am old-fashioned. All of my news comes from words printed on actual paper (well, except for the guilty workday pleasure of checking in at HuffPost to see if Mueller got the T. or there are new photos of the royal family). My phone is for texting and taking pictures (and the odd phone call), not for movies.  My computers are for emailing, googling, writing, blogging, Facebooking, and those sneaky moments with HuffPost (see above), not for movies. My car is just for driving (not for playing music or stories…)

I read books for stories. I go to the theater for movie-stories. Except when I don’t. Except when I turn to my television for both. That big slightly-rectangular black screen in my living room. That cable-less, dish-less big black blank…with a tiny device called Roku attached to it—and therein lies the magic. The stories—in movies, in series, in documentaries. The stories minus commercials. The stories I want when I want them.

Streaming. I love this magical new world—which I’m sure is about to be tarnished, sullied, altered, and further monetized by the loss of net neutrality. But for now, this winter, this holiday…it has been nothing short of splendid. Stories stories stories and no danger of the bloated T. face appearing.

Here’s what I’ve been watching with a one-two sentence description and recommendation. Most of them I’ve enjoyed in two or three day binges. I’ve gradually expanded my streaming channels—the danger is that if I’m not careful my story sources will soon cost more than my old cable bill. That’s okay—still no commercials and no bloated reddish face topped with an orangey hair-like substance.

Let me begin with the best of the best. For me that’s The Crown (Netflix). It’s near the top of what I’m calling my high-class, smarty-pants soap operas (well, not sure anything can ever top Downton Abbey). The second in a series that will eventually cover Queen Elizabeth’s whole life, it’s full of sudsy drama and some reasonably authentic history. I’m somewhat addicted to all things British so of course I consider The Crown a perfect gift for holiday escapes (shades closed, fleeces on, phone off, lefse at hand…the good life for sure)

Then along came the last season of A Place to Call Home (Amazon/Acorn), except for the final four episodes which have since been downloaded. I’m saving them for the most special of occasions, maybe tonight to start the year right, maybe for this weekend with a foodie treat of some specialness? I’ve talked about this series before—described it as Australia’s Downton Abbey with the downstairs folks moved to the farms and the time upped to the 50’s. I can’t bear to leave this family—what to do.

New seasons (and probably final seasons) of two of my favorite detective series have come available this fall, Broadchurch (Acorn) and Top of the Lake (Hulu). The first is one of those great British detective series with broody guys, strong women and it rains a lot. The second is Australian with super-strong, not so silent women and it’s sunnier. Elizabeth Moss is the main character in Top of the Lake and apparently with her Handmaid commitment is not coming back so it will likely end. Both shows have plenty of dastardly deeds and bad hombres to keep my attention without resorting to quite as much swaggering and gunplay as most American detective stories.

Robert and Marsha (bro and sister-in-law) pointed out a new one-season event from Sweden I’ve just finished watching. Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn) based on the detective novels of Asa Larsson, one of my favorite Nordic Noir writers. It’s excellent if you like smart women taking care of business with just enough personal story-line to make them your best friends. There’s also a whole lot of northern Sweden’s bleakly beautiful landscape, especially in the dramatic winter scenes—reminds me of much of northern Minnesota at its chilly best.

Haven’t been serious about my movie and documentary to-see lists yet but have watched the first half of the Joan Didion doc. Amazon had a glitch so couldn’t finish it but certainly will. It’s fine work by Didion’s nephew, intimate and poignant and admiring but not simply pretty either. Didion is one of my much-admired writers and it may be nominated for an Oscar so it will be pure pleasure to return to it.

Finally…The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu). I read the book while in Jaisalmer in the West Indian desert state of Rajasthan. In my golden room in a golden fort. It was a great late-night read with my wide open windows and the sounds of quarreling dogs wafting not-so-gently in. It’s hard to duplicate that experience on my couch in front of the TV, however brilliant the streaming experience is. That’s the long way of saying I’m having a hard time with it right now. I believe that’s because the first two episodes cover a few major experiences that take awhile to reach in the book, and because they are filmed exactly as I imagined them to happen. It’s rare to have a scene that’s existed only on paper and in your imagination come alive right before your eyes precisely as you pictured it. Of course I had the advantage of being an Elizabeth Moss fan and visualizing her right there in front of my eyes as I was reading. Anyway, it’s quite a story, and I just read that Margaret Atwood, the author, will be heavily involved in the second season which takes off from the book but moves beyond. Good idea. I’ll stay with it.

In the spirit of starting 2018 off right, I’ve written something, taken my cold medicine, eaten broccoli. I have one more evening ahead of guilt-free streaming, and then it’s back to reading and writing and gym and more damn vegetables.  Happy New Year.



Curling up with a Good Book…and a good dog too.

Just a final wrap-up note note about the Minnesota visit. Grand Rapids, population just over 11,000, has a bookstore I’ve come to love over the years for its attention to Nordic Noir. Unfortunately the Village Bookstore is located in a small, and generally failing, mall, so its days may be numbered. But while it is here I am availing myself of the luxury of selecting a healthy stack of probably-want-to-reads, hunkering down in a comfy chair, and making the final selections—usually most of them. You simply cannot duplicate the pleasure of that touchy-feely perusal on line. And I am a stack of books richer for having experienced it. Can’t wait to go to bed tonight and continue tracking the murderer loose in Larvik, southwest of Oslo, with my detective friend William Wisting and his journalist daughter Line (The Hunting Dogs by Jorn Lier Horst). I do order more books than I should on line just because it is so easy—but what if we all do that so much we forever lose our access to real honest-to-god places that exude the love of books and need to be among them? Shop at your local bookstores…independent and B&N…or they’ll disappear and this will be a blander poorer world for the loss.

Title Quote: “She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot.