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The Killing Returns - As a Novel

12/04/2012 09:52 | Updated 10 June 2012

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British author David Hewson brings Sarah Lund to life on the page in two new novels based on Denmark's groundbreaking TV crime series...

Life continues after The Killing for the TV sensation that put Danish noir on the map and made a star of Sofie Gråbøl and that jumper. After the US spin-off and the Danish sequel comes the novelisation of detective Sarah Lund, written by British author David Hewson.

Launched at Bristol's CrimeFest on Saturday, 26 May, the book revisits Lund's investigation into teenager Nanna Birk Larsen's murder, promising to resolve several loose ends from the 20-part series and offering a fresh look at some characters.

Hewson, the author of the bestselling novels about Italian detective Nic Costa, found the opportunity to write The Killing novel too enticing to miss.

Never seen anything like The Killing
'I was flattered to be asked,' he says. 'I don't think I'd seen anything like The Killing. Macmillan [the publisher] said I was their first choice because I had experience of writing foreign locations and strong female characters.

'This was not a standard TV tie-in. It is different in significant ways. It's been a really interesting project.'

The author was in Italy when The Killing - or Forbrydelsen in Danish - became a word-of-mouth hit on BBC4 around this time last year, but his publisher rushed him early DVDs of the series and Hewson became an instant fan.

A big, epic tragedy
'TV has a three storyline structure,' he says, 'but The Killing takes on that structure with such ambition. You've got the crime storyline - who killed Nanna? - which is wonderfully handled. Then you've got the B storyline, the family of Theis and Pernille - how will they cope, especially as he's a bit dodgy? And then there's the C storyline, the political one. This makes it much bigger than the standard crime story. For me, it's a big, epic tragedy.'

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Hewson (left) finds a lot of television clichéd and lacking depth. But not The Killing.

'It was so different and ambitious,' he says. 'I was talking to a friend at the BBC and said if you pitched a 20-hour crime series, what would happen? And he said, they would have thrown me off the roof of Broadcasting House.'

Where did the black necklace come from?
But there were challenges in novelising the TV show. The 'phenomenal acting' and TV's production sleight of hand allows television to gloss over loose plot ends.

Hewson explains: 'An example is the black necklace, which was a key thing. Nanna is found clutching a necklace in that car, and the necklace is what Lund links to the earlier disappearance of a girl. It brings on the closure of the story.

'But we never find out how the necklace got there. On TV there is so much else happening it doesn't matter. In a book readers will say, who gave it to her? It's a key point to the narrative. I had to work out why it was there.'

Translating Sarah Lund to the page
He adds that while he did not try to explain the enigmatic Sarah Lund - 'I don't know why she's like that, I don't think she knows why she's like that' - he does offer a theory about her choice of knitwear.

'Why would she pick that jumper?' he says. 'It's from the Faroes, it's a kind of rural, hippy thing. It was interesting that when The Killing II came out, Sofie, who picked the jumper, gave the reason for why she chose it, and she gave the same reason I did. Basically, that there was a side to Sarah that didn't think she should not be in Copenhagen chasing dead people, she thought she should be having a nice life playing guitar and living in the country. Because Sofie's acting is so good, I could tell what was there.'

The author admits to roughing up Troels Hartmann, the show's heart-throb, played by Lars Mikkelsen. 'An arrogant man, a horrible jerk,' says Hewson. 'And all the women loved him, such a handsome man!'

The series's sex symbol gets a hard time
'I'm horrible to him in the book. I've done things to him that don't happen on TV because one of the things that you almost feel when it finished on the TV was that he was unlucky, not to blame at all. I think that's completely wrong.'

For those who missed the series, Troels was evasive during the police hunt, and basically sells out his political high ideals at the end of series one. 'He was culpable,' Hewson says. 'He could have told the police the truth and they would have got nearer the killer quicker if he hadn't put himself before everyone else.'

Launching at CrimeFest
Hewson met Søren Sveistrup, the series' writer, before he got to work but has had no feedback from Copenhagen on the finished manuscript. Sveistrup has been busy on series three of The Killing, but Hewson hopes he will be at CrimeFest for the novel's launch, along with some of the cast.

CrimeFest is the four-day crime fiction convention that's been running since 2008, and this year has a line-up of authors including Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Frederick Forsyth and PD James.

'A hell of a line-up this year,' says Hewson.

In the meantime he has just finished the novelisation of The Killing II as well, which will be published next year. Sofie Gråbøl will play a small part in the US Killing, and there's The Killing III to look forward to later. The Killing lives on.