The Dying Detective ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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Photo montage of scenes from The Dying Detective. Central image is the poster for the show.

(by Gina Meardon)

The Dying Detective (Den Döende Detektiven) (2018) is a Swedish drama/mystery/thriller mini-series available on YouTube UK. 3 x 58 min separate episodes. In Swedish with English subtitles.


Lars Martin Johansson (Lars Martin) is the most famous policeman in Sweden; he is also newly retired and his routine consists of eating too much rich food, drink and cigarettes. He doesn’t exercise, except to hunt moose. One fine summer’s day, outside his favourite street-food kiosk in Stockholm, before he can even bite into the sausage he has just bought, he has a seizure. When he wakes up he finds himself in intensive care, with a prognosis that is anything but good as well as a paralysed right side, which means a total change of lifestyle if he is to survive.

Whilst in hospital his doctor tells him the harrowing story of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl which took place 30 years before and remains unsolved. Lars Martin decides to spend his recovery solving ‘one last case’ but there is a problem, even if he finds the perpetrator he cannot be brought to justice because of the Statute of Limitations…


Rolf Lassgård as Lars Martin
Helena Af Sandeberg as Eriksson
Alexej Manvelov as Max Makarov
Lena B. Eriksson as Pia
Angelika Prick as Matilda
Amanda Ooms as Ulrika Stenholm
Savannah Issa as Yasmine Ermegan
Henrik Norlén as Lewin
David Mjönes as Staffan Leander Nilsson
Ardalan Esmaili as Joseph Ermegan
Kicki Bramberg as Erika Brännström
Kerstin Avemo as Margaretha Sagerlied
Rolf Lydahl as Förhorsledare
Iwar Wiklander as Evert
Dan Johansson as Alf Hult
Per Svensson as Jarnebring
Ellen Jelinek as Mattei
Lars Lind as Sjöberg
Kalled Mustonen as Läkare
Claes Hartelius as Linderoth


Writers: Leif G. W. Persson (Novel), Sara Heldt (Screenplay)
Director: Kristian Petri
Composer: Niclas Frisk
Cinematographer: Stefan Kullänger
Editor: Patrick Austen

Image of the novel upon which the series The Dying Detective is based


Writer Leif GW Persson has been an award-winning writer for more than 30 decades and has served as an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice and is Sweden’s most renowned psychological profiler.

Kristian Petri also directed Before We Die as well as co-writing and directing The Most Beautiful Boy in the World with his partner Kristina Lindström.

Niclas Frisk also wrote the original music for Before We Die.

Cinematographer Stefan Kullänger worked on Before We Die and Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves.

Patrick Austen was the Editor for The Bridge, Before We Die and Moscow Noir.

Poster for the show The Dying Detective


This mini-series has been on my bucket list for a long time, primarily because Alexej Manvelov is in this, and Ardalan Esmaili and Kalled Mustonen also have roles. Alexej took the supporting role because he wanted the opportunity to work with Rolf Lassgård and I had only heard good things about the series from interviews that he has done.

Imagine my delight the other week when… I stumbled upon the complete series of The Dying Detective on Youtube, complete with English subtitles. It has NEVER been available in the UK until now! I have read the book it is based upon and could not wait to see if it stayed faithful to the storyline and ending. So what did I make of The Dying Detective?

With just 3 episodes I can say it is a story you will want to see through in one sitting. I will leave my thoughts upon the ‘interesting subtitling’ until the end!

Rolf Lassgård as Lars Martin in a scene from The Dying Detective

Rolf Lassgård’s Lars Martin is a larger than life, grouchy force of nature even with battling an ailing body that leaves him frustrated at times with the limitations it places upon him. His brain is sharp, his body not so. When he returns home to convalesce, his wife, Pia, employs a nurse, Matilda. Much to his consternation, and despite the poor girl’s best efforts to keep his diet healthy, he finds plenty of ways to undermine them.

Conveniently for Lars Martin, Pia has to go away to an important conference for a few days and so he begins his investigation into the rape and murder of 9-year-old Yasmine Ermegan, ably assisted by his former protege in the Stockholm police, Eriksson, and a young Russian, Max Makarov, an employee of Lars Martin’s brother Evert, who is sent to him “to be useful’.

Alexej Manvelov (centre) in The Dying Detective

As I said, the series runs true to the book and a lot of characters and storylines are packed into the 3 episodes. The original, flawed investigation failed to find any suspects or leads other than a mysterious red Golf GTi seen in the area at the time Yasmine disappeared. Indeed, for a while, the investigation was focused on Yasmine’s father Joseph as the main suspect.

From his living room now converted into a bed/investigation room and surrounded by case files, notes and photographs Lars Martin, Eriksson and Max begin to unearth what really happened to the little girl from the time she left her home to when her body was found.

What they uncover begins to have a profound effect, especially on Lars Martin and Max. The old detective starts to have hallucinations and dreams of Yasmine. She has become extremely ‘real’ to him whilst for Max the case awakens a childhood trauma and tragedy for which the culprit went unpunished.

Ardalan Esmaili in The Dying Detective

The problem facing Lars Martin is not whether he would find the culprit – he is determined to do that – but rather what to do once he is discovered. The Statute of Limitations prohibits prosecution meaning he would not face justice but rather “justice in a higher court” as Lars Martin reflects once they have narrowed their suspect down. He knows he cannot publicly name the man because it will inevitably lead to the perpetrator’s death and he does not want the man’s blood on his hands.

With his health failing and Yasmine constantly on his mind, Lars Martin devises a means to confront the perpetrator of the crime and force him into a confession to bring the family closure. This does not go the way Lars Martin intends and it would seem that, once again, he will escape justice … or will he?

The Dying Detective is more than just a ‘whodunnit’ the character development is well-formed with Eriksson having such a close relationship with the ageing detective she is more like a daughter to him. Max also is an interesting, and complex, character, Evert’s nickname for him being “Lille drängen” (little boy). He was a boy of 16 when he was sent to Evert in a work placement and 10 years on is still there. His backstory, which he discloses to Lars Martin is very sad, and interestingly one part (being 10 years old and alone when he left Russia for Sweden) mirrors Alexej Manvelov’s own journey. They have a close relationship and at their final farewell Lars Martin, in an emotional scene, tells Max that, if he had a son, he wishes he would have been like Max.

Lars Martin is a man who takes control of his final case and plans his farewell, something which becomes clear at the end. He goes out the way he chooses having lived his life the way he wanted to the very end.

But please, do not think this is a dark Nordic noir without humour. Lars Martin is an affable and entertaining character, cajoling those around him to buy him his favourite food or beverage or insisting on a restaurant jaunt and to hell with the consequences. There is a particularly hilarious scene where he is required to join an aquaerobics class at the local swimming pool as part of his rehabilitation. Rolf Lassgård gives a stirring performance of jumping up and down in the water doing the necessary moves with a deadpan expression and flabby tummy whilst Alexej’s Max sits poolside dissolved into helpless laughter at the sight of his boss in the pool surrounded by ‘women of a certain age’ many wearing floral swimming hats. I am not sure that Alexej needed to fake the laughter!

If I have any criticism at all of the series it concerns the subtitles, or rather who SVT employed to do them, in what seems, a ‘hurried job’ for the English language market. At times translation is literal and some sentences have incorrect word order so I quickly guessed that the titles and translation were done by a Swede and not by an English native speaker (I was right). It does not make the story hard to follow but it does make for an interesting and, at times, funny dialogue. For instance, raising a glass and saying, “Skål” consistently gets translated (literally) as “Bowl!” and not “Cheers!” The male and female genders also get mixed up, a lot! The other problem with the subtitles seems to be a ‘coding glitch’ especially in flashback and music scenes, hard to explain but at times the dialogue becomes ‘embedded’ in a line of coding which you just have to ignore. Unbelievably SVT credit the person responsible for the subtitles at the end of series; I am surprised that the quality of the subtitling did not get flagged up.

That glitch aside I would still very much recommend watching this mini-series. Being YouTube it is free to view, the storyline is absorbing and gripping, and the characters are believable and well-acted by a cast at the top of their game. I can understand Alexej jumping at the chance of working with Rolf Lassgård. Ardalan’s role is small but his pain as a child’s grieving father, even after 30 years, is totally realistic. Lassgård himself owns the role of the indomitable Lars Martin, just as he did with “A Man Called Ove”. He is an actor I never tire of watching, even with “quirky” subtitling!

The Dying Detective Episode 1 in Full (English Subtitles):

The Dying Detective Episode 2 in Full (English Subtitles):

The Dying Detective Episode 3 in Full (English Subtitles):

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