German crime drama is returning to Channel 4’s subtitled streaming service Walter Presents with The Marnow Murders, available in the UK as a box set from 16 June 2023. Based on the novel of the same name by screenwriter Holger Karsten Schmidt, the mystery is set in the current day but was inspired by shady dealings that occurred between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Note: In our opinion, the trailer contains spoilers.
On a hot summer’s day, we see a black BMW pull up to a social housing apartment block in Schwerin, a town 100km west of Hamburg in northeast Germany. The white-haired driver casually enters the building, pulls on latex gloves, draws a gun and enters one of the flats. But someone has beaten him to it. Alexander Beck is sitting in his armchair, his head thrown back, throat slit and with cockroaches crawling on his skin. So the intruder pours some schnapps, toasts his victim, and then plugs a USB key into the victim’s laptop, copying files to the desktop.
When local detectives Frank Elling (Sascha Alexander Geršak) and Lona Mendt (Petra Schmidt-Schaller) are called out to the scene, things look a little different. Beck is hanging upside down in the bathroom, with ‘child molester’ carved into his head and a gag shoved down his throat. It’s the first but not the last example of the subterfuge by parties unknown that will cloud their investigation.
Soon afterwards, a killer brazenly strides across the lawn at an expensive retirement home, draws back the head of the elderly Mr Dreyer in his wheelchair, and cuts the man’s throat. Now there are two deaths with the same method of killing but what links Beck and Dreyer? Is there one killer? Are the killings random? Or is there a serial killer out there with an agenda? And, who are the three old men we see meeting up – one of whom was Beck’s post-mortem visitor?
What The Marnow Murders promises is a long and complex case across eight 45-minute episodes, with murders occurring right up to the conclusion. There’s a dose of police corruption as a superior tries to derail Elling and Mendt’s investigation, and deep suspense when the investigators themselves become targets.
The realisation of the characters and the acting here are exceptional. The detective Elling is gregarious and full of life but is financially stretched. His teenage daughter is asking him to buy her a car, and he suspects his wife Suzanne (Anne Schäfer) is having an affair. On top of which, his mother is suffering from Alzheimers and he’s watching her slip away.
Elling’s inner conflicts are well portrayed by Geršak in little twitches, tense grins and the way he papers over the cracks with a forthright style of leadership among his police colleagues. Mendt, meanwhile, is a loner who rides a motorcycle everywhere, lives in a motorhome and occasionally seduces the junior detective Sören Jasper (Anton Rubtsov). For her, perhaps, freedom and loneliness go hand in hand.
The strengths and flaws in both the lead characters play an important and moving role in how things play out, with Elling providing the gusto and Mendt using reason and insight to work out where the real connections in the evidence may lead. Sascha Alexander Geršak and Petra Schmidt-Schaller won best actor and best actress respectively at the 2021 German Television Awards, and the show also picked up the best crime series accolade at the German TV Crime Festival the same year.
Early on, the detectives work out that Beck might have belonged to the Stasi, and links to events in East Germany are an important part of their enquiries. Things also seem to lead back to Marnow, a lakeside campground. There’s a hidden secret that more than one person out there is willing to kill to protect.
Shot in locations across Germany, The Marnow Murders aired in Germany in March 2021 as Die Toten Von Marnow. It’s available to stream in the US on Amazon Prime and Apple TV, and in Australia on SBS. Click here to visit Walter Presents.