The Chestnut Man, on Netflix, is a Danish series based on the book by the master himself, Søren Sveistrup, creator of The Killing (Forbrydelsen). It opens on a flashback about 35 years earlier. A local police officer stumbles upon a horrific murder scene at a farm, where the entire family except for a boy and girl, have been slaughtered. In the basement, the officer discovers rows and rows of figures made from chestnuts and twigs. In Denmark, creating chestnut men is actually a fall ritual for kids, so that’s not inherently scary. But then we cut to the present day, where a woman is found murdered and mutilated…with a chestnut man next to her. Meanwhile, the Social Minister of Denmark, Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner), is grieving the kidnapping and death of her daughter Kristine (Celine Mortensen) the year before. When Kristine’s fingerprint is found on the chestnut man next to the body, all hell breaks loose. Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and her irritating new partner Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følgaard) race against time to stop the killer while also trying to solve the mystery of Kristine’s fingerprint.
For our review of The Killing (Forbrydelsen) season 2, click here.
For fans of The Killing, or any Nordic Noir really, you will see a lot of familiar elements in The Chestnut Man. Thulin is a single mother who is celebrating her last day as a homicide detective when the case hits. Naturally, because she was on the Kristine Hartung case, she is both assigned to and wants to work the chestnut man case. In order to do that, she has to fob off her daughter onto the grandfather (Anders Hove) for a few more weeks, for which she feels guilty, but not THAT guilty. There’s also the new partner with whom she has a testy relationship. On the day of the first murder, Hess shows up at the station on a temporary transfer from Interpol, where he screwed something up. Hess is odd: socially inept and obsessive, disappearing for hours or days. Lastly, there is the politician plotline, although there isn’t as much politics per se, as in The Killing. One major difference from The Killing is the visual style of The Chestnut Man, although creepy, is much brighter, so it’s easier to see what’s going on.
For more suggestions of excellent Nordic Noir, click here.
Our take on The Chestnut Man
There’s not much to say about The Chestnut Man except, “It’s good!” With an excellent cast and an engaging mystery, The Chestnut Man doesn’t make one misstep. And at 6 episodes, it flies. It’s tightly written, and has all the macabre elements you look for in Nordic Noir. There are some tropes in the series, but they’re done well, and heck, they were most likely created by Søren Sveistrup himself. If it feels a little perfunctory, that may be because we are used to a meatier story from Sveistrup. But boy, does he know how to make excellent TV (and write a taut thriller).
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