A Minor Agatha Christie Character Gets the Spotlight in Series ‘Hjerson’

A Minor Agatha Christie Character Gets the Spotlight in Series 'Hjerson'What would Agatha Christie think of reality TV? That’s the unlikely question raised by unique Swedish adaptation Agatha Christie’s Hjerson, which takes a minor character from some of Christie’s novels and places him in the present day. Actually, to call Sven Hjerson even a minor Christie character might be something of a stretch, since he’s actually a fictional character within Christie’s novels, the creation of author Ariadne Oliver. Oliver writes books about the fictional Finnish detective Sven Hjerson, and her attitudes toward her character mirror some of Christie’s attitudes about her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot.

It’s not necessary to know any of that in order to enjoy Agatha Christie’s Hjerson, though. The show, which aired in Europe last year and is streaming in the U.S. on Topic, features puzzle-like mysteries in the Christie tradition, but it doesn’t directly adapt any of her books or reference Hjerson’s particular status within them. The show’s Hjerson, played by Johan Rheborg, has graduated from fictional character to real person, with a full personality derived from Christie’s sketchy details. He’s a renowned detective in the Poirot or Sherlock Holmes mode, who’s been in hiding for years after being accused of tainting an investigation.

Instead of Ariadne Oliver, the show has Klara Sandberg (Hanna Alström), a reality TV producer whose greatest achievement thus far is something called MILF Hotel. She’s tired of working on such trash, so on impulse she pitches her boss a show starring Hjerson, promising that she can easily sign him up. Surprisingly, Hjerson is a big MILF Hotel fan, but he prefers being out of the spotlight, and he initially rebuffs Klara’s offer of his own TV show.

Over the course of the eight-episode season, Klara slowly convinces Hjerson to join her TV project, while the two of them team up to solve murders even before the reality show has launched. Klara first tracks down Hjerson on a luxury cruise between Sweden and his childhood home on the Finnish island of Åland, and of course there’s a murder on the boat while they’re out at sea. A few days after Hjerson arrives in Åland to settle the affairs of his late mother, there’s a murder there, too, and he calls Klara in to help him investigate.

Each case takes up two episodes, with a satisfying set-up and resolution in the clean Christie manner. The outgoing, gregarious Klara and the fussy, private Hjerson make for a perfect mismatched pair, and the actors have a fun, relaxed chemistry. The show balances the mysteries with explorations of the characters’ quirky personal lives, and the nosy Hjerson often seems as interested in solving Klara’s marital problems as he is in catching murderers. Their growing friendship is sweet and genuine, and there’s never really any question that Hjerson will eventually agree to Klara’s reality show idea.

Most Scandinavian mystery shows that make it to streaming in the U.S. are dark, intense serialized stories, so the simple, lighthearted approach of Agatha Christie’s Hjerson may require some adjusting of expectations at first. It’s closer to British cozy mysteries than it is to so-called Nordic noir, but that doesn’t mean the mysteries aren’t engaging or carefully plotted. Christie may not have envisioned Hjerson as a protagonist for any of her mysteries, but here he proves that he could eventually stand alongside Poirot or Miss Marple in the expanded Christie canon.

Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He’s the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies, TV, and pop culture for Vulture, Polygon, CBR, Inverse, Crooked Marquee, and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.