Back in November I read The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup, an absolutely gripping Nordic crime novel which was the very definition of a thriller. It was an easy five stars, and I was totally on the edge of my seat for most of the way.
It had been on my TBR for over two years, but my reading it coincided with a six-part adaptation being released on Netflix, in which the author was heavily involved in production. The series was originally made in Danish, with English voices being dubbed over the actors as they spoke. I watched it in a matter of days over the New Year period, and today I shall be sharing my thoughts in relation to the book.
If you are not familiar with The Chestnut Man, here are a couple of links if you would like to know more:
On to my review of the series! Just a warning that there will be some spoilers.
What I Liked
The translations. Along with dubbing the characters’ dialogue into English, I also really liked how that whenever we saw a newspaper article or a sign written in Danish, the English translation would appear on screen.
The relationship between Hess and Thulin. The two main detectives in the story get off to a difficult start, but as Hess proves himself they develop a very strong mutual respect. I particularly loved how Hess gains a rapport with Thulin’s daughter Le, in a way that we did not see in the book.
The Chestnut Men. The killer’s signature is to leave little chestnut men next to his victims, and these were genuinely frightening on screen, especially in the scenes were a collection of them were all grouped together.
The final episode. I shall be honest now and say that this adaptation is not as good as the book, but the last episode is just about spot on. It captures the urgency of the plot really well and the action scenes are powerfully executed. The fact that viewers will have formed a connection to the protagonists by this point also makes it effective.
It was faithful to the book. In terms of the general plot, it was very true to what is in the book – the action just happens at a slightly faster pace.
Rosa and Steen. A large part of the story revolves around Rosa Hartung and her missing daughter Kristine. This element was handled extremely well from both her perspective and that of her husband Steen, with some impressive acting.
The 1987 Timeline. I really liked the scenes were Hess and the former detective went looking into the deaths of the family in 1987. It was fascinating and helped introduce two memorable supporting characters.
What I Liked Less
The direction. I thought the director made some very poor choices with camera shots, especially in the first two or three episodes. The focus was a little bit scattered and random shots would appear on screen while characters were speaking.
The sense of foreboding was sometimes missing. In the book, the author created such a gripping and intimidating atmosphere that the presence of the killer sent shivers down my spine. I did not feel that in the adaptation. One prime example is the scene with Jessie Kvium – that could have been better realised.
The actor who played the killer. This might just be me, but I felt they made a disappointing casting choice for the person who turned out to be the killer. He just did not seem especially convincing in the role, especially once he was unmasked. Apart from that, the actors all put in fairly good performances.
Hess’ meltdown. In the book, when Thulin discovers evidence linking the wrong people to the murders, Hess is put into such a profound state of shock. This made me root for him more, but we do not get to see as much of it in the television show.
Hess on screen was not quite how I imagined him in the book. Before seeing Hess on screen, I was expecting something slightly different and he was portrayed slightly different to how I had envisioned him. However, that was not such a bad thing as the actor captured the character well.
The violence was not too graphic. I do not usually like watching shows with strong violence, so I was grateful for this. For sure, there are many unsettling moments and some rather gory images, but none of the killings were actually shown and it could have been a lot worse.
We saw much more of Hess’ landlord than in the book. Again, this was a good thing. The landlord and his son were entertaining characters.
The book was better, but this was a faithful adaptation that was true to the story and for the most part I enjoyed it, especially towards the end.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5