Chestnut Man, based on Søren Sveistrup’s 2018 novel, belongs to the many excellent Nordic Noir crime thrillers we can currently stream. The iconic formula is all there: violent and gruesome serial murders, a workaholic female detective, an initially ineffectual male partner, and a dark and ominous landscape. This is a story concerned with mangled corpses, haunting blood pools, and a weaponization of a childhood arts and crafts project.
In the opening scene in 1987, a local sheriff walks into a barn in response to a call that some of the farmer’s cows have escaped. He finds three people brutally murdered, and a fourth seriously injured. In the basement a little girl is hiding under a bed. Chestnut figures, toothpicks sticking out for hands and feet, are nearby.
Flash forward more than thirty years. A young woman is found brutally murdered in Copenhagen with one of her hands cut off. Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) is called in to take charge of the case. As a single mother, she feels guilty leaving her young daughter Le in the care of her stepfather, as warm and caring as he is.
Naia is reluctant but forced to partner with detective Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). The two soon discover clues joining the 1987 quadruple murders with other cold cases and the current onslaught of seemingly unconnected murdered young women. Each detective walks through a vicious and bloody crime scene. Each successive act of violence increases the number of extremities amputated with each murder victim. The pile keeps on growing. And possible suspects and red herrings accumulate as well. A tiny chestnut stick-figure lies next to each victim, and becomes the calling card and key clue to tracing and identifying the murderer.
Chestnut Man is intense, and at times quite scary. This Nordic noir thriller is incredibly well-paced as well as tightly structured, leaving a trail of dots to connect in an unexpected and satisfying ending, One of the devices that gives Chestnut Man an extra creep chill factor is the chestnut dolls themselves. After all, they symbolize a child’s entertainment.
Keep looking for the sequel to this meticulously woven police procedural where the unpredictable reaches new heights.
Availability: Netflix streaming
Note: The author of Chestnut Man also wrote The Killing and was a screenwriter for The Snowman as well.