BOOK REVIEW – The Killing II by David Hewson

By Marty Mulrooney

The Killing II David Hewson

In 2012 Alternative Magazine Online reviewed The Killing by David Hewson, a crime novel based upon the first series of the critically acclaimed Danish TV drama of the same name, describing it as “an unputdownable page-turner that deserves as much recognition as the television show that inspired it.” The Killing II is the novelisation of the second series of the show, once again following Detective Sarah Lund as she plunges headfirst into yet another complex murder mystery – this time involving the Danish Armed Forces – that only she can solve…

Three gnarled stakes, replicas now, with the originals in the small Resistance museum in the city, the Frihedsmuseet. A woman was tied to the centre pole, hands behind her back, bound with heavy rope round her torso. Blonde hair soaked with rain and worse, head down, chin on chest, crouched awkwardly on her knees.

Like Hewson’s adaptation of The Killing before it, The Killing II takes the broad strokes of the TV series upon which it is based and tells much the same story, with some subtle differences – and a big one at the end. Sarah Lund, now a passport controller in Gedser in southern Denmark, is called back to Copenhagen by Lennart Brix, head of the homicide team – she initially resists his invitation but as always, her curiosity gets the better of her. Brix needs Lund’s help on a frightening new case: a female lawyer named Anne Dragsholm has been killed, found dead tied to a stake in a military graveyard.

It’s a brutal murder and confession or not, Sarah doesn’t buy that the husband did it – not for one second. She investigates further and soon uncovers a connection with a disbanded Danish Armed Forces unit. Then members of the team start turning up dead and before long, the search for a murderer has become the hunt for a serial killer. Sarah must work with her new partner, Ulrik Strange, to figure out who the killer is and why they are targeting people with ties to the Danish Armed Forces.

Strange was staring at her.
’We’re not going back to the Politigarden,’ Lund said.
’Where are we going?’
‘Herstedvester. You know? The high-security psychiatric prison that no one’s ever escaped from?’ He looked at her, face blank, truly a touch out of his depth, she thought. ‘Well Jens Peter Raben just broke that record. He’s gone.’

Just like the case of Nanna Birk Larsen in The Killing – a case which still haunts Sarah Lund’s every waking moment – The Killing II is a story told from many different points of view. One suspect, Jens Peter Raben, escapes with ease from a psychiatric prison when his old team members start turning up dead. He can’t be the killer – but is he truly trying to help, or is he somehow involved? Meanwhile, the newly appointed Minister of Justice Thomas Buch, overweight and good-natured, must tackle the cutthroat world of politics whilst trying to investigate the military killings and fighting his peers over anti-terrorist legislation that he strongly opposes.

David Hewson yet again writes with authority, taking a story initially intended for the small screen and transforming it into a rich novel that never feels like an adaptation. So many novelisations fail because they’re dry and throwaway – here, the material is treated with respect and often enhanced by the written word. Character’s inner thoughts, originally hidden on camera, are now revealed. This is a book that will be as accessible to readers unfamiliar with the show as those who know every single episode inside out. Furthermore, cultural details that were often missed entirely by English viewers watching the show with subtitles are now made accessible, the bloody history of wartime Denmark – and its echoes in the present day – brought strongly to the fore.

Another shape there. A bedraggled man beneath its soft light, erect by the wall, holding a gun firmly beneath his chin, both hands to the grip.
She put her own weapon back in the holster. Walked on. He was rocking backwards and forwards, eyes closed.
’Don’t be stupid,’ Lund shouted. ‘You’ve got a wife and a kid. You’ve got a future.’
A noise came from him and she wondered if it was wry laughter.

The Killing II is a fantastic novel that only falls ever so slightly short when compared to the original novelisation of The Killing for two reasons. First of all, Series Two of the TV show wasn’t ever quite as emotionally involving as Series One and this of course transfers over to this written adaptation. Second of all, Hewson yet again adds an additional twist ending that although clever, isn’t quite as daring and doesn’t click into place quite as neatly as the previous one – it works well but doesn’t add much to the overall narrative, which remains largely unchanged. Regardless, The Killing II proves that lightning can indeed strike twice – this is a brilliantly written book that proves every bit as engaging and gripping as the television show that inspired it. Bravo Mr Hewson – we can’t wait to see what you do with The Killing III!

9 OUT OF 10

TELEVISION REVIEW – The Killing: The Complete Seasons One and Two (DVD)
BOOK REVIEW – The Killing by David Hewson
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With David Hewson (Author, The Killing)

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