When you think back to the first Nordic Noir show that truly captured the imagination of people around the world, The Killing or Forbrydelsen in its native Danish, springs to mind. Created by writer Søren Sveistrup the show was a huge international success, airing in 120 countries. And now he has done it again with The Chestnut Man on Netflix.
A story that plays out over six episodes, The Chestnut Man has many layers but is essentially a thrilling crime drama. The show opens in 1987. A local police officer is doing a welfare check when he makes a terrible discovery. A brutal and bloody slaying of a family on their farm. Fast forward to 2021 and politician Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner) is returning to work in parliament one year after her, now presumed dead, daughter went missing.
The police believe they have already solved the case and the man who confessed is in prison. This brings us to Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic), a single mother who has put in for a transfer to spend more time with her child. She is paired with a new partner Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) who is on loan from Brussels. On their first day together the duo is called to the scene of a murder.
The victim, a young woman and mother, is found in the garden and unusually is missing her hand. Nearby Thulin discovers a small chestnut man, a handmade doll of sorts, usually made by children around Halloween. The creepy clue however becomes a source of mass confusion when the fingerprints found on it appear to be from the politician's missing child.
Putting it down to coincidence, the two detectives continue to investigate before a second murder is committed. Once again another grisly murder scene is discovered, along with another chestnut man. And again, it also has the same fingerprints providing evidence connecting the two crimes. So are the detectives on the hunt for a serial killer? What does it have to do with the 1987 case? Is Rosa Hartung a link or a target? Is Kristine Hartung really dead?
Steen Hartung (Esben Dalgaard Andersen) the husband and father believes Kristine is still alive. But there's more at play in The Chestnut Man than simply finding a serial killer. The cases are linked by perceived child abuse and neglect but getting to the root of who is behind it all proves difficult for ambitious young detective Naia Thulin and Mark Hess.
The Chestnut Man is another superb Nordic Noir whodunnit from Denmark. At times it really is edge-of-the-seat stuff, particularly as the twists and turns keep coming. Setting the murders in a quiet suburb and the use of the suitably creepy chestnut man song all give it an eerie feeling so you never quite know what direction it is going to go in.
And while it is a police procedural there is plenty of more subtle drama regarding grief, the inability to move on after a tragedy and the difficulties of the women who work full time, often at the expense of their families and the conflict that brings. However, while that may work as the basis for the show, it's also a well-worn trope.
Female detectives have moved on a lot in terms of tv but in almost every case depicted they struggle to balance work and home life, feeling guilty for missing a school play because a young woman has been found brutally murdered and they have to catch a killer. Or as most people see it – doing their job. (See Deadwind as another example). And yet, I don't see many male protagonists facing the same issues. It's time to change the narrative.
That aside, The Chestnut Man does provide a well-rounded relationship between the two detectives, paces the story really well, hits on plenty of themes and links all the subplots together really well. It's engaging and creative and well worth a watch. Who knew a small doll could create such a web of destruction.
How Many Episodes Are In The Chestnut Man?
There are six episodes in The Chestnut Man season one. Based on the debut novel from Søren Sveistrup, the story is wrapped up completely so whether or not there will be a second season remains to be seen.
How Many Books Has Soren Sveistrup Written?
To date, he has only written one novel – The Chestnut Man in 2019. Primarily he is a script writer and adapted Jo Nesbo's The Snowman for the movie.
The Cast Of The Chestnut Man
Danica Curcic plays ambitious young detective Naia Thulin. The Danish actress can also be seen in Across The Waters, On the Edge and The Exception, all of which are available to watch on Amazon.
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard takes the role of Mark Hess in the show. He is Thulin's new partner and only there because of an issue in his previous job. Initially, he's not that bothered but as the detectives hunt for the killer, his relationship with Naia develops as they set out to save some innocent lives. You can watch him in The Rain on Netflix or A Perfectly Normal Family on Amazon.
Esben Dalgaard Andersen plays Steen Hartung, Rosa Hartung's husband and father of Kristine Hartung, the young girl presumed dead. He is well known in Denmark for his roles in Hånd i hånd and Skyldig II.
David Dencik is the forensic specialist Simon Genz. He is the officer that discovers the fingerprints from the missing person's case a year earlier and the evidence connecting all of the murders. A very busy Swedish actor, he played Mikhail Gorbachev in Chernobyl, is in Quicksand on Netflix and is in the newest James Bond movie – No Time To Die.
Season 2 Of The Chestnut Man
Given that this series was based on a novel and there is no follow-up, this particular story has reached its conclusion. However, this doesn't mean that Søren Sveistrup won't quickly put pen to paper and create a brand new story, especially as The Chestnut Man Netflix has been such a success.
So will we see Danica Curcic and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard reprising their roles for a brand new case? Quite possibly but officially, no decision has been made yet.