Celebrating the year’s best film, TV, and print.
Was 2016 a vintage year? We probably had more European content than ever before. Some of it was outstanding. Sifting through 2016’s offerings here are the year’s best TV series, film, and books.
Best Foreign Language TV series: Case
The darkest Nordic Noir to hit TV screens. A spin-off from Iceland’s first ever homegrown legal drama. Undoubtedly the most disturbing series you will see this year. An investigation into an apparent suicide offers a washed up lawyer one last shot at redemption. Inspired by a real-life criminal case, Case is a psychological puzzle box which will haunt you for days.
Best English Language TV series: Happy Valley
The second series of Sally Wainwright’s gripping drama has found a cult audience in the US. More than a crime series, it is filled with rich characters and paints a vivid picture of a decaying community.
As Catherine Cawood, Sarah Lancashire proves there is life after soaps
Best Foreign Language Feature-Film: A Man Called Ove
Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel is an unashamed tear-jerker. An intricate study of grief and resentment, the film is perhaps the closest Sweden has come to producing a home-grown equivalent of It’s A Wonderful Life. A Man Called Ove is a tragi-comedic exploration of loss and acceptance.
Best DVD: All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride
The surprise hit of last year’s Christmas’ TV schedules. With no commentary or music, and just the sound of hoofs crunching in the snow and reindeer bells, All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride is a hypnotic introduction to the lifestyle of a pair of Sami tribeswomen as they cross an ancient route on their reindeer sleigh.
Best Translated Crime Novel: The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund (Trans by Neil Smith)
Relentless psychological thriller. First published in Sweden in 2010, it is credited to the pseudonym Erik Axl Sund and was written by the duo Jerker Eriksson and Hakan Axlander Sundquist. Originally issued as a trilogy, the UK edition combines all three novels. The book begins with the discovery of the mummified remains of a boy. At nearly 800 pages it will require some dedication but don’t be intimidated by the thought of getting to grips with a massive text. Expertly plotted, the novel builds to a grimly satisfying conclusion. Not for the faint hearted, some readers may be deterred by the graphic depictions of gruesome acts.
Best Reissued Translated Crime Novel: The Snow Was Dirty by Georges Simenon (Trans by Howard Curtis)
Simenon’s masterpiece. Darker than the Maigret novels, The Snow Was Dirty is frequently compared to Camus’ The Outsider. In an unnamed country under military occupation a son of a brothel owner borrows a friends knife and kills an officer. A visceral portrayal of an alienated young man’s descent into amorality. Previously issued as Dirty Snow, the clumsy name change is unnecessary. An existential novel wearing crime fiction’s clothes.
Best English Language Crime Novel: The Constant Soldier by William Ryan
Cementing his status as one of the most significant contemporary Irish crime writers, William Ryan’s The Constant Soldier is an atmospheric, thought-provoking, and engaging read. The horrors of World War II and consequences of fighting on the wrong side are explored in a multi-layered and memorable novel.
Best Reissued English Language Crime Novel: The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley
The British Library’s Crime Classics range has dusted down some long forgotten titles and introduced a new generation to the Golden Age of detective fiction.
First published in 1929, The Poisoned Chocolates Case is an expansion of a short story published earlier in the year. Six amateur detectives take it in turns to solve a case of poisoning. Poking fun at the genre’s conventions it invites you to be the seventh sleuth and solve the case before the killer is unmasked.
Best Crime Non-Fiction: Brit-Noir by Barry Forshaw
Following on from his critically acclaimed volumes on Nordic and European crime fiction Barry Forshaw casts an investigative eye over the UK’s crime fiction. His region-by-region analysis highlights the best contemporary writers. Demonstrating that British Noir is an umbrella term for a variety of subgenres Barry Forshaw presents a near-definitive overview of the current scene.
Hall Of Fame: Maj Sjöwall
As one-half of the couple who invented Nordic Noir, Maj Sjöwall paved the way for Stieg Larsson, The Killing, The Bridge and numerous other books, TV series, and films. The ten Martin Beck novels she co-authored with Per Wahlöö continue to exert a powerful influence on the genre. Demonstrating the books continued relevance, in 2012 BBC Radio 4 broadcast adaptations of all ten novels. More recently, BBC Four has been screening selected episodes from Sweden’s long-running TV series.