Sweden's fictional murder capital a peaceful place

Thu Sep 1, 2011 11:23am EDT
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By Robert Evans

YSTAD, Sweden (Reuters) - "This is a very peaceful place," says police inspector Charlotte Lindh as families head flock past toward an open-air flea market on a bright Saturday morning. "I am happy I can bring up my children up in Ystad."

At the other end of Stora Ostergatan, the main street through the southern Swedish port and market town, milling shoppers halt on the main square to applaud parading military bands and Scottish pipers, in town for an annual festival.

The bookshop just off the square, Stortorget, is crowded as are the cafe terraces around it with waiters threading through the tables balancing trays with coffees and pre-lunch drinks.

Just like any small provincial European town in the seasonal sunshine on the first day of a warm weekend?

Perhaps, but Ystad, with its 17,000-odd regular inhabitants, is different. For millions of thriller fans around the world, the medieval idyll of brightly painted thatched cottages and "olde worlde" -- but with all mod cons -- hotels is the murder-and-mayhem capital of Scandinavia.

Around its narrow cobblestone streets, the thoroughfares of the modern suburbs and the port, stalk the shades of the police heroes and heroines -- as well as the villains -- of the 11 "Wallander" novels of 63-year-old Swedish writer Henning Mankel.

Three series of Swedish television films, eagerly snatched up by broadcasters across the globe, have added many more mystery stories to the canon -- all with plots approved by the author if not written by him.

And Irish-born international star actor Kenneth Branagh has played the key role in British television versions -- also popular in Sweden -- of three of the novels, with more being shot around the town this autumn.   Continued...

<p>Swedish author Henning Mankell attends a news conference in Berlin June 3, 2010. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>