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Who’s Who in Arne Dahl

We’re at the mid-point, half way through the ten episode series of Arne Dahl, a Swedish crime thriller series about an elite team of detectives. So it’s time to take stock!

Here’s a rundown of who’s who in Arne Dahl‘s A Unit – a special police cell set up to track down a serial killer picking off Sweden’s financial elite. Like the A Team but with more Saabs, and marginally fewer explosions.

Detective Paul Hjelm is a damaged detective with a troubled home life. His recruitment to the A Unit saves him from a disciplinary hearing for misconduct after he shoots an immigrant in a hostage situation. He’s married to 36-year-old Cilla, with a daughter, Tova, and a son, Danne.

Arne Dahl on Paul: “He’s probably the character I’m closest to – he shares my own uncertainty about existence, but also my, well, reluctant strengths. Even at his worst I like him – which might even mean that I like myself. Sometimes, anyway.”

Jan-Olov Hultin / Jenny Hultin is the Head of Department and establishes up the A Unit. He has a subtle sense of humour. During the TV series he undergoes a gender change and becomes CID Inspector Jenny Hultin.

Arne Dahl on Jan-Olov: “He may very well be the image I’d like my daughters to have of me. Quite simply, a great dad. And not quite as neutral as he’d like to think…”

Kerston Holm A bright but troubled woman from Gothenburg. She has dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes. She also sings in a choir. She and Paul nearly sleep together in The Blinded Man, and in Bad Blood she is recovering from the death of the man she was having a relationship with.

Arne Dahl on Kerstin: “She is my female side… I’m probably a bit in love with her. It’s purely platonic, of course.”

Jorge Chavez is small, dark and very energetic: an ultra-professional, modern police officer. He dresses in sports gear and is a computer geek. He’s single, the son of Chilean refugees, and shares an office with Hjelm.

Arne Dahl on Chavez: “He’s my energy when I’m at my strongest… he’s me when I refuse to sleep because I have to write on.”

Arto S√∂derstedt, a pale Finnish intellectual with five children. He was originally a top lawyer in Finland who defended particularly wealthy and unpleasant individuals. He had a crisis of conscience, moved to Sweden and after a few years joined the police force, hoping to change the system from within although he was soon known as a ‘controversial cop.’

Arne Dahl on Arto: “He is my wise and free self, completely independent of the outside world – he represents my wish to be able to do what I want. Is he possibly the book’s hero?”

Gunnar Nyberg, an enormous man who was once a bodybuilder (Mr. Sweden in 1973) and a wife-beater. He was charged three times with police brutality before he gave up the drugs. He looks for solace in the church choir. He hasn’t seen his children since they were young.

Arne Dahl on Gunnar: “He’s my conscience… He also represents grace, the possibility of reconciliation, and of a good life in the end.”

Viggo Norlander is not altogether bright and slightly inflexible. He worked in the Stockholm police division, and is the second oldest member of the team. He’s divorced, a stickler for detail, and very old-school. He pursues a hunch in The Blinded Man and ends up being crucified by Russian mobsters in Tallin. In Bad Blood he is shot by the Kentucky Killer.

‘A balding, rather stout man in his early fifties spoke up. He was sitting on the far right in the small, bare conference room. He tapped his pen lightly as he spoke. “Yes, well, my name is Viggo Norlander…”‘

The Blinded Man by Arne Dahl is published by Harvill Secker and the second book in the series, Bad Blood, will be published in July. The TV adaptation is currently showing on BBC 4, Saturday nights at 9pm.


    WOW! Arne Dahl is so impeccably awesome, my jaw drops when I see it. Although in the beginning, I was irritated by the cut-scenes to the criminals, as I felt it ‘gave the game away’, I know feel there would be no game without the look on that site… While Arne Dahl portrays Sweden as a country plagued by murder, organized crime and rain, it still makes me want to visit!

    My first taste of Scandinavian “Noir “was the Bridge which I enjoyed but the plot got unbelievable in the end, didn’t enjoy Wallander or the Girl with the Dragon tattoo.I totally LOVE the Arne Dahl series, the mix of characters is excellent, their interaction is brilliant, and their behaviour is not predictable to someone used toAmerican/British characters.Not so wild about their personal/family problems, to be quite honest woulddn’t miss it if that part of the story was left out all together as its a bit depressing.I love the mystical cleaner character. I think that as a Brit I miss some of the social references which probably are suggestive to the personalities and story lines, so it would be nice if there was a place where we could ask questions about them. Is the cleaner some sort of norse supernatural folk legend ? I think that I understood the “Children don’t do as their parents tell them…….”.Is that a standard Swedish saying ? And the “”She said, farted and flew away”, is that a standard saying ? Does Sweden and Estonis share a close cultural relationship, like say the U.K. and Ireland.Also are there Swedish stereotypes like in the U.K. where people from the NorthEast are friendly and down to earth, Scots are tough and heavy drinkers etc. ? Once again I really, really enjoy the series. Thanks for your time .

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