Dicte, Crime Reporter features a newly-divorced heroine harbouring her own secrets, who has a habit of getting very involved in the grisly and dark investigations she reports on. So far, so Nordic noir. Yet this series bucks the expectations of die-hard fans of The Killing, The Bridge, et al., by being an altogether lighter and frothier affair. It has, in fact, more in common with Murder, She Wrote than any of its other, more obvious, bedfellows.
The 10-episode series focuses on five separate cases, each one covered in double episodes, and takes place over the course of about a year. We join Dicte Svendsen (Iben Hjejle), as she moves from Copenhagen back to her hometown of Aarhus with her daughter, following her divorce from her philandering psychologist husband, a move which forces her to confront the ghosts of her past. Her backstory is laid out in the opening of the first episode – having gotten pregnant at the age of 16, she was forced to give her baby up for adoption by her devout Jehovah’s Witness parents, whom she soon thereafter became estranged from.
Moving back to her hometown also means she is able to reconnect with her lifelong friends Anne (Lærke Winther Andersen) and Ida Marie (Lene Maria Christensen), who spend much time at Dicte’s house in the country drinking wine around the kitchen table girl-talking about their love lives. Starting a job at the local paper, she also gets to work and flirt outrageously with the totally hot photographer Bo (Dar Salim), who has marriage problems of his own.
From the outset, Dicte has an eerie knack of stumbling onto crime scenes. Much like Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher, people are killed in rather horrific ways everywhere she goes. Dicte literally can’t have a wee without pissing all over a murder scene. It’s all quite handy for her job – she’s always the first reporter there, because she’s generally the one who discovered the body – but you do start to wonder about the massive coincidences which follow her around. The crimes, too, are often linked thematically to her own inner struggles, in such a blatant way that to call them metaphors would be to give them too much subtlety – it is much more literal than that.
The first crime she investigates – more in the role of detective than news reporter, much to the chagrin of actual police chief Wagner (Lars Brygmann) – revolves around people buying babies from migrant women who are used as illegal surrogates, which obviously makes Dicte brood somewhat about the baby she herself gave away as a girl. In one of many (many) amazing coincidences, the young man her daughter has begun dating is up to his neck in the whole deeply shady business. The second investigation, in Episode 3, begins as Dicte and Anne are having an innocent brunch together at a riverside restaurant when what should float by but a dead baby in a bucket, which Dicte manages to fish out of the water. To say you couldn’t make it up would obviously be fallacious, because you could. Whether you would want to is another story altogether.
Unsurprisingly, given her proximity to each crime she reports on, Dicte is generally several steps ahead of the police. Wagner obtains much of his information from her, leaving the viewer to wonder how much of the crime in Aarhus would go unsolved without her input. At one point, she is so crucial to an investigation that Wagner calls in a clairvoyant to perform regressive memory therapy on her, so she can shed light on a child abduction case that has reached a dead end. When Dicte finally meets up with her own long-lost son, it turns out that he himself is intimately caught up in certain ongoing criminal activity. None of it makes the slightest but of sense, and there is a tonal dissonance between the terrible nature of some of the crimes and they way in which they are treated.
And yet somehow the series works. It is best not to go into it with the Scandi noir expectations, because this is more of a soap set against the backdrop of murder. The programme is really all about the burgeoning romances and the interpersonal relationships. The characters are appealing, multi-layered and beautifully performed, and there is an all-encompassing good-naturedness about it. It was screened on a Friday night originally, but it’s more of a Sunday evening affair, even with the dead migrants, babies and homosexuals. It’s light and bright and airy and nothing really bad happens to anyone – apart from all the murder. And with Season 2 and 3 on the way, it seems Denmark’s own Jessica Fletcher has won her share of British fans.
Dicte: Season 1 to 3 is available to stream for free on All 4’s Walter Presents. Dicte: Season 2 and 3 are available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.