Danish murder mystery ‘Sommerdahl Murders’ kills it

The archetypical Danish murder mystery series — bleak, with a side order of gloom — is turned upside-down in “The Sommerdahl Murders.”

Set in the sunny, picturesque seaside town of Elsinore, the eight-episode drama is based on Danish author Anna Grue’s bestselling crime series and streams on Acorn TV (in Danish, with English subtitles). It stars Peter Mygind and Laura Drasbaek as conflicted husband-and-wife cops Dan and Marianne Sommerdahl and offers up a tasty menu of red herrings, intriguing, twisty plots and even a love triangle. Each self-contained mystery unfolds over two episodes — so the whodunit formula never grows stale and allows the lead characters to evolve as their personal interactions intensify over while the series plows forward.

In the opener we meet Dan and Marianne, both of whom work for the Elsinore police department (he’s a detective, she’s in forensics). They’re parents to 19-year-old daughter Laura and are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. But underneath their smiles and mutual devotion lurks an ongoing issue: Dan’s workaholic nature has has taken its toll on Marianne, who resents his devotion to the job and its constant intrusions into their personal lives. When Dan announces at a big party that he’s taking Marianne to Bali for their silver anniversary, she smiles wanly, knowing his annual promise to her will be broken once work inevitably gets in the way.

"The Sommerdahl Murders."
“The Sommerdahl Murders.”Acorn TV Laura Drasbæk, Peter Mygind

The first two-episode “Sommerdahl Murders” mystery sets the template for what’s to follow, with a labyrinthian arc involving the murder of a young Russian illegal immigrant whose lifeless body is found washed up on the beach. There’s little to go on, though an autopsy shows that she recently gave birth — and, with no baby in sight, Dan and his best friend/partner, DS Flemming Torp (Andre Babikian), kick into high gear searching for the infant with the clock ticking on its survival. Their investigation, aided by Marianne, leads them to, among other plot points, a sketchy murder suspect, a shady Elsinore cleaning service and a doctor who helps illegal female immigrants integrate into the local populace.

Meanwhile, Dan and Marianne’s marriage is tested to the max and we learn, slyly, that Torp is hiding some dishy secrets of his own, which are bound to affect his working relationship with Dan. All is not what it seems and that, in essence, is the overriding arc of “The Sommerdahl Murders,” but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill “gotcha!” series — since its multi-dimensional characters, clever writing and, yes, even the town of Elisnore itself will pull you along in the wake of its many surprises.

All eight episodes of “The Sommerdahl Murders” are available on Acorn TV.

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