Book Review: The Killing Handbook by Emma Kennedy

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In the period prior to BBC Four’s transmission of the third and final season of Forbrydelsen both new and old media have published articles which discuss previous instalments and provide publicity for those that have yet to air. For several months the fanbase has been able to access information concerning the new batch of episodes through social media posts by Danish media professionals and early reviews from those who attended either the press screening held in Copenhagen or the BFI’s event. That the Danish broadcaster has yet to air the final episode means that any fans eager to obtain information concerning the resolution ahead of other UK and Irish viewers is unable to do so thus ensuring that in contrast to the second season fans can, for the moment, view the Wikipedia entry without having the identity of the guilty party revealed.

To cater for the active audience which appreciates Forbrydelsen several fan groups have been established on twitter and Facebook that provide electronic spaces for the celebration and analysis of content alongside the displaying of fan authored creations. Within the Cultural Studies arena discussion of fan activity has evolved from early perspectives which viewed this form of viewer activity as a form of social deviance to more recent, and enlightened, approaches that consider fan practices to be an active mode of consumption in which members of this subculture are enraged in a creative and meaningful relationship with a cultural text. For Henry Jenkins ‘Fans are central to how culture operates… New technologies are enabling average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content.’ (2006: p.1) That fan as a theoretical concept and personal signifier is now a far more inclusive term is the result of a complex process involving new academic paradigms and technological developments which have increased the visibility of fans, reduced the potency of negative stereotypes and made it easier for them to directly interact with each other and for them to engage in dialogue with content producers/providers. With the publication of The Killing Handbook: Forbrydelsen Forever the audience has a literary text that although authored by a media professional is fundamentally a fan text which celebrates and encourages active interpretation, interactivity, and productivity . Throughout the book Emma Kennedy asserts her fan credentials and this is reinforced at various points via quotes from cast members, most notably in Sofie Gråbøl’s preface.

The Killing Handbook is a mass market text that explores potential sources of viewing pleasure, provides background information on the production, places the protagonist Sarah Lund within the canon of female detectives, highlights areas of Danish culture that may be alien to English speaking viewers, and encourages the reader to be creative. Due to publication deadlines the book refers primarily to the first two seasons although the forthcoming third is briefly discussed in the twelfth chapter but not to the extent that it might ruin the next five weeks for those eagerly awaiting the return of the series to our screens.

The front cover is incredibly rich in information concerning the text, it’s agenda, and the relationship with fandom. Upon initial viewing it seems to be nothing more than a section of a Farose sweater. However, Faroese sweaters have become indelibly associated with Forbrydelsen and Arrow Films’ forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray box set also employs an image which represents a section of a sweater as the cover due to instant recognition amongst the fanbase. Whilst the image on the cover may already be loaded with associations it is when read in relation to information contained within the covers it becomes apparent that it is the product of an author engaging in a dialogue with fandom and harnessing fan activity and fan in an attempt to find an image which best represents the series within a clear and concise form that is suitable for display within an overcrowded bookshop. Several other examples of fan produced craft are featured within the text most notably a sweater and gun and cosy set made by fan Kathy Calmejane and  this progressive  approach to engagement with aficionados was key to my appreciation of the book. The textual information also invites active participation, directly in terms of a quiz section and indirectly in the opening chapter which provides a twenty point analysis of Sarah Lund’s key characteristics for those inclined to emulate the protagonist.

In each chapter the reader is made to feel that she or he is a partner to Kennedy as investigating officer, that I made it to the end alive and without wearing a Faroese sweater should not be interpreted as foreshadowing developments from the third season. Kennedy picks apart past seasons, highlights potential plot holes and sometimes humorously glosses over them by referring to a character’s intellectual shortcomings or professional ineptitude. The wealth of information reveals much that has not, to the best of my knowledge, been previously revealed by online sources. We get to learn of potential alternative titles that were actively considered during the early days of production, how a fax inadvertently revealed to an actor that his character might be the killer and many more stories which will enhance repeated viewings of earlier seasons.

This book will not just act solely as an aid to viewing The Killing. The inclusion of cultural information will alert us, as viewers, to information in other Danish programmes that we might otherwise miss or fail to comprehend. For those considering visiting the Copenhagen locations cited in chapter 11,  Mz. Kennedy has generously included a section that promises to enable readers to become proficient in Danish within 15 minutes. Beat that Michel Thomas!

Like the televisual series that inspired it, this is a text that I will return to again and again particularly as I view the third season and assess how Lund’s body language conforms or deviates from the patterns identified by Kennedy.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to fellow fans and have ordered several additional copies for  Christmas presents that I will give to fellow fans.

The Killing Handbook: Forbrydelsen Forever is available from all good booksellers.

For thise interested in Fan Studies the Henry Jenkins text I have cited is Fans, Bloggers and Gamers:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_12?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fans+bloggers+and+gamers&sprefix=fans+blogger%2Caps%2C0

 

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