Review: Rebecka Martinsson

Ida Engvoll in Rebecka Martinsson

Rebecka Martinsson is an 8 part Swedish mystery series about a Stockholm lawyer. It’s based on 4 novels by Åsa Larsson. Many of the characters follow from mystery to mystery.

Rebecka Martinsson is a complicated woman. She’s a worthy new heroine of the Nordic noir mystery genre. She seems affected by her past in ways she hasn’t resolved. Her words and her actions don’t always match up. She makes decisions that seem wrong.

Ida Engvoll stars as Rebecka Martinsson and makes her as darkly mysterious as possible.

Rebecka Martinsson poster

The series is divided into 2 episode mysteries for a total of 8 episodes. In episodes 1 and 2 “The Blood Spilt” a funeral takes Rebecka from her job in Stockholm to the small northern town where she grew up. She grew up in Kurravaara, which is near Kiruna and north of the Arctic Circle.

Rebecka’s co-worker and boyfriend Måns (Niklas Engdahl) checks on her frequently and urges her to come back to work and Stockholm.

While she’s in Kurravaara, she gets involved in a murder investigation with the Kiruna police, particularly helping policewoman Anna Maria Mella (Eva Melander) and her partner Stålnacke (Thomas Oredsson). Anna Maria quickly realizes that Rebecka is smart and a would be a great asset for her team.

Ida Engvoll and Eva Melander in Rebecka Martinsson
Ida Engvoll and Eva Melander play lawyer and cop

Anna Maria is no-nonsense pregnant when they meet. Her eating habits are a running joke.

Rebecka reunites with her childhood friend Nalle (Jonas Wiman), a mentally handicapped man. As the murder is solved, Nalle is killed. Rebecka admits herself to a hospital for psychiatric help after this, and takes a leave from her Stockholm law firm.

In episodes 3 & 4, “Black Path,” Rebecka comes out of the hospital. Rebecka moves into her grandmother’s house. Her frequent companion is a grandfather figure Sivving (Lars Lind).

She accepts a job as a temporary prosecutor in Kiruna and is immediately embroiled in another murder. This time it involves siblings who own an interest in a local mining company.

Anna Maria’s had her baby, but she’s on the job. Her husband is the baby’s main caregiver.

A cop with a missing arm named Krister (Jakob Öhrman) brings a working police dog to most the the investigating Anna Maria and Rebecka are involved with.

Rebecka would make a good cat burglar. Her methods of investigation are not strictly legal. The police worry that she’s unstable because of her psychiatric problems and her unorthodox methods. She is removed from the prosecutor job. But she continues her investigations and feeds information to Anna Maria.

In episode 4, Krister accepts Rebecka’s invitation drop by. He happens to visit just in time to save her from a suicide attempt with pills and booze.

In episodes 5 & 6, “Until Thy Wrath Be Past,” Rebecka is still living in the far north, but she and Måns are frequently together. They make an offer on a house in Stockholm. Rebecka promises to return to the city by summer and be with Måns full time.

Meanwhile she rather awkwardly offers herself to the one-armed police officer Krister. He doesn’t take her up on it. This leads to a series of comic encounters. She goes to his place to apologize and finds him with a woman. He comes to her place with a gift (a puppy) and finds her with Måns.

The mystery in “Until Thy Wrath Be Past” takes place in the dark of Arctic winter. Two divers are killed because certain people don’t want a Nazi airplane that has been hidden under the water for decades to be discovered. The murderers are hiding a family member who was a Nazi sympathizer during the war.

When Anna Maria goes to investigate the suspects she is alone. They threaten her and intimidate her. They disable her vehicle and take her phone. She walks for help and is furious about the whole thing. Anna Maria is generally having a bad time – perhaps after effects of giving birth to her baby. Her relationship with her husband and family is shaky. She takes it out on everyone, but she’s especially furious at the family suspected in the drowning deaths.

When the drowning over the Nazi plane mystery is reaching its climactic moments Rebecka is chased onto the ice and falls through. She just lets go. She makes no attempt to swim to the top. After her suicide attempt in episode 4, we learned that her mother committed suicide. Rebecka seems willing to follow her mother’ path. She’s saved once again from her impulse to end it. This time her savior is one of the murder suspects. That’s an interesting plot twist.

Also check out: Ida Ingvoll in A Man Called Ove

The last two episodes are “The Second Deadly Sin.” Rebecka is packing up her grandmother’s house. A moving van is scheduled to move her back to Stockholm. It’s spring and the snow is gone. Grass is green and the air is warming.

Rebecka talks on the phone to Måns about paint colors for the new home. She also has sex with Krister. Rebecka calls Krister later with drunken apologies. She keeps saying she’s going to Stockholm, but everything she does, especially with Krister, runs contrary to that.

A human jawbone is found inside the stomach of a bear. And a woman is found dead in her bed, stabbed multiple times with a pitchfork. Her grandson lives with her. He is so traumatized by the murder, he will only bark like a dog and interact with a dog.

Rebecka discovers that everyone in the dead woman’s family (including the owner of the jawbone) died mysteriously. Another family member was killed in a hit and run that could have been a murder.

The young boy Markus (Elis Gerth) has nowhere to go. Krister takes him in. He slowly opens up to Krister. Rebecka has officially quit her job but keeps doing it anyway. She realizes who the murderer is and that Markus is in danger. Rebecka and Krister manage to save Markus.

In the last few minutes of the last episode, Rebecka finally breaks up with Måns, something everyone but Rebecka herself could see needed to be done. She returns to Kiruna and what she feels is her real life. She stands outside Krister’s window and watches him eat with Markus, but she doesn’t go to his door.

That could be viewed as a sad ending, but don’t give up hope on this heroine. Being alone for a while might be exactly what she needs to deal with her demons at last.

The location above the Arctic Circle is important in this series, especially in the episodes filmed in winter. But even in summer the scenery is spectacular.

Rebecka Martinsson is available on Acorn TV. Amazon doesn’t have it streaming, but is advertising DVDs to be available in February 2018. Amazon and several other book sellers have the Åsa Larsson books. By the way, before Åsa Larsson started writing crime novels, she was a tax lawyer, just like Rebecka.

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles. This is the best trailer I found. It gives you a sense of the style and direction of Rebecka Martinsson.

5 thoughts on “Review: Rebecka Martinsson”

  1. My wife and I enjoyed this series even with the 2 episode wrap up. I especially liked the steam room scenes and the mixed up main character

  2. We enjoyed this but…too many unexplained loose ends. Have watched the first two, but in both cases there were things that just didn’t make sense. Lost in translation? Or are we just stupid…?

  3. I didn’t see the necessity of beating the dog to death …. couldn’t she have just stunned it?
    Why leave a defenceless dog shackled outside when there is a danger of bears?

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