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Rolf Lassgård (Wallander: The Original EpisodesSebastian Bergman) leads an investigation into the notorious 1986 murder of the Swedish prime minister in Death of a Pilgrim now on MHz Choice!

The assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 marked a watershed moment in the history of Swedish democracy. Although a suspect, Christer Pettersson, was quickly arrested and convicted, he was just as quickly acquitted on appeal. The case remains unsolved and to date has produced more paperwork (and yielded more conspiracy theories) than the Kennedy assassination. But what really happened? Why did Palme suddenly dismiss his security detail and go to the movies with his wife, unguarded? More importantly, who knew about this seemingly spontaneous decision – and what was the killer’s motive? Death of a Pilgrim is a four-part miniseries based on the first and third novels of author Leif GW Persson’s acclaimed “Fall of the Welfare State” trilogy – the English titles of the books are “Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End” and “Falling Freely, As If In a Dream”. Together, these novels present a plausible and compelling version of events that may have led to the Palme murder, while also telling an unusual and fascinating crime story.

(L to R) Henrik Norlén, Rolf Lassgård, Ellen Jelinek and Helena af Sandeberg

The story begins in the present day when Lars Martin Johansson (LMJ) , head of the National Crime Bureau, is asked to assemble a team to look into the Palme case – an unofficial, parallel investigation, as there is already an ongoing Palme inquiry that’s gone nowhere. “A smart team with a fresh set of eyes” is how LMJ describes them; everyone in the group was “there” when Palme was assassinated, in various capacities, so they may have seen or heard something that could be key to solving the mystery. LMJ also has a personal stake in the case; could he have prevented the prime minister’s murder if he had acted different back in ’86?

Jonas Karlsson as Waltin
Claes Malmberg as Bäckström

From there, the narrative jumps between the present day and the events leading up to the killing. As the story progresses, we see more clearly how the team members are linked to the events leading up to Palme’s death. But as news of their work leaks out to the press, a new chain of events is set in motion, changing their lives forever.

Author Leif GW Persson is a renowned criminologist, psychological profiler and a professor at the National Swedish Police Board, where he is regularly consulted on criminal cases. This background lends detail and authenticity to his stories and the characters who inhabit them. In addition to the trilogy, Persson has written a series of books about police inspector Evert Bäckström, charitably described as “short, fat and primitive” – he’s homophobic, racist, misogynistic and most definitely NSFW. Bäckström shows up as a supporting character in Death of a Pilgrim, played to vile perfection by Claes Malmberg. Other actors of note include Henrik Norlén as Inspector Jan Lewin, adding to the ever-growing list of Swedish series this popular actor has appeared in: Johan Falk, Thicker Than Water, Camilla Läckberg’s Fjällbacka Murders, Beck, Wallander, Arne Dahl, etc. Jonas Karlsson, best-known as Martin’s boss Klas Fredén in the fifth season of Beck, here plays the unfortunately named Claes Adolf Waltin. And veteran actor Kjell Bergqvist, who has proved so popular with MHz Choice subscribers as homeless ex-cop Tom Stilton in Spring Tide, plays LMJ’s superior Erik Berg – almost unrecognizable after a shower and a shave!

Kjell Bergqvist as Berg and Jacob Eriksson as Nilsson

But the star of the show is Rolf Lassgård. “Big Rolf”, as he is affectionately known to MHz Choice viewers, is magnificent here, intense and commanding while essentially playing two different characters: the younger LMJ, described by a colleague as “heartless”, and the older LMJ, wistful and brooding.

With its CIA conspiracy theories and links to the Cold War ’80s, there’s a distinct John le Carré vibe to the proceedings – dark, complex and funny at times, but never less than gripping. By the end, whether or not you believe the theories presented, you feel they’re at least plausible – truth is stranger than fiction, after all. It’s a wild ride, and arguably one of the best-written and most entertaining series in the entire MHz Choice library. And this is just the beginning of LMJ’s saga – a follow-up series, The Fourth Man, was produced for Swedish television in 2014 and will premiere on MHz Choice at the end of the month. So if you love Rolf and want to binge out on both miniseries at once, May 29th is your special day!

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