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Literature / Backstrom

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the loathsome Evert Bäckström, as portrayed on Swedish television by Claes Malmberg. Note the unconvincing wig.

Swedish author Leif G.W. Persson has written a series of mystery novels featuring a Defective Detective named Evert Bäckström.

Evert Bäckström is first introduced as a minor character (and black comedy relief) in the novel Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End — The Story of a Crime (Mellan sommarens längtan och vinterns köld), dramatised for TV as En Pilgrims Död. He also appears in the sequel Another Time, Another Life (En annan tid, ett annat liv).

The novels in which Evert Bäckström features as a central character are:

  • Linda, as in The Linda Murder (Linda — som i Lindamordet, 2005)
  • He Who Kills the Dragon (Den som dödar draken, 2007)
  • The Sword of Justice (Den sanna historien om Pinocchios näsa, 2015)
  • He is also a major, but not the central, character in The Dying Detective (Den döende Detektiven, 2016)

Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End was dramatised for TV as Death of a Pilgrim (En Pilgrims Död), with Claes Malmberg as Evert Bäckström. The novels also inspired an American TV series, Backstrom, in which Rainn Wilson plays Lieutenant Everett Backstrom, a Portland detective.

Troper som är närvarande i dessa romaner inkluderar:

Tropes present in the novels include;

  • Author Avatar: In his thinly-disguised Author Tract, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End — The Story of a Crime (Mellan sommarens längtan och vinterns köld), a police inspector called Persson is introduced who sets about methodically derailing the psychopathic secret policeman Waltin — the man who is ultimately responsible for the assasination of a certain Prime Minister. Persson is described as short, fat, middle-aged and physically unthreatening — but very intelligent.
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  • Author Tract: Persson uses Summer's Longing... as a fictionalisation of his theory that Olof Palme was murdered by dissident right-wing elements in the police and security services. The reason why the crime remains unsolved is that the police officers involved staged a big cover-up. Persson worked at a high level for the Swedish Police and was sacked for whistle-blowing on incompetent cops. It is very possible he is telling something of what he knows here.
  • Bilingual Bonus: a retired copper is called in for questioning. He is a suspect because whilst active in the police, he had a personal zero tolerance policy towards criminals and tended to be very direct and physically robust in dealing with them. This got him disciplined on many occasions. His name is Stålhammar.
  • Brawn Hilda: Annika "the Anchor" Carlsson is seen as this: she is taller than the female average, works out, does weights, is well-muscled, has no obvious interest in men and this attracts rumours.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Bäckström's discovery of one, bearing the face of the murdered Prime Minister, in the home of a right-wing nut he is investigating for something else, offers a possible suspect for the murder and adds to an underserved reputation for excellence.
  • Defective Detective: Bäckström has absolutely no regard for professional conduct, personal niceties, or his own health and is pretty much useless as a detective. His cases are solved by luck, coincidence, or by the efforts of others and give him — on first acquaintance — a reputation for genius. This is soon dispelled on working closely with him. What saves him is a streak of low cunning and practical experience of how the police work.
  • Dirty Cop: not only Bäckström but a disconvcertingly large number of the Stockholm force. Who play along with the liberal direction of the force but collude to do things properly despite official dissapproval. Even Annika Carlsson arranges a bonus for herself when several million krone in used notes appear as evidence retrieved from a crime scene. Left alone with money that hasn't been counted yet, she spirits away a hundred thousand or so in high-denomination banknotes. She hides the money in a very secure place.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Everybody in the Stockholm police has their own worries, concerns and preoccupations. Bäckström is just the most glaring example.
  • Fat Slob: Bäckström is the archetypical fat slob. Among other things he manages to keep a diet going for perhaps three days before lapsing into his previous unhealthy fast-food diet.
  • Foil: Throughout the interlinked books in a long series, the appalling Bäckström and other incompetent, mediocre and corrupt coppers are deliberately contrasted with parellel characters who have the redeeming qualities they lack. The last novel in the series, The Dying Detective (Den döende Detektiven), sees the one man who could unreservedly be called a good copper, Lars-Martin Johansson, recuperating after a stroke, reviewing a cold case which was bungled a quarter-century before by Bäckström. As his last piece of active police work, Johansson undoes the damage caused by Bäckström and solves an especially horrible murder. But the effects of his illness are too much and he relapses and dies. Lisa Mattei, similarly, serves as a foil to the amoral Annika Carlsson.
  • Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: Bäckström's ill-fated attempt to keep a pet. He amuses himself by teaching the parrot some choice items of demotic Swedish. Unfortunately Isaak the large-beaked parrot conflates the phrases "Bäckström is a sex god" and "[insert senior policeman of choice here] is a pouf" and learns to incessantly recite "Bäckström is a great big pouf!". When fobbed off on a neighbour's son, the child takes the parrot to school for Show And Tell, where its impressive vocabulary causes a scene.
  • Homage: The retired Officer Stålhammar.
  • Honey Trap: In He Who Kills the Dragon, a shady big-time art dealer who relies on Bäckström for "little services", (ie, corrupt favours) arranges him a high-class escort for the night as a "thank-you". Bäckström, vain, egotistical and with an exaggerated belief in his own pulling power, believes the beautiful woman who picks him up in the hotel bar and takes him home is genuinely attracted to him and finds him irresistable. It doesn't occur to him for one second that she's been paid for and it's a Honey Trap to drag him deeper into corruption.
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Bäckström's pet name for his penis is The Super-Salami. He considers this to be a piece of equipment which is highly-tuned and in in peak condition, and believes any woman offered a slice of the salami is blessed indeed.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: the Swedish police force as visualised by Leif G.W. Persson, a bureaucracy riven by political demands and where The Dilbert Principle sees people promoted to exactly the right level of incompetence.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Bäckström, after he shoots two immigrant criminals who came round to his flat attempting to bribe him (having been tipped off by the art dealer, who is giving backhanders in return for favours, that this is a cop who is open to suggestions). This perceived act of self-defence makes Bäckström a hero and taps into ugly prejudices in Swedish society that immigrant criminals are being treated as a soft touch by an over-generous Sweden. The fact that he blazes off fifteen shots at close range, only hits once and gets the second man by an unrelated fluke accident — and then he steals the bribe money anyway — is not touched upon.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Annika Carlsson, who ticks all the boxes for "butch lesbian" and is not apparently interested in men. This causes misunderstandings. She does turn out to be cheerfully bi, though.
  • National Stereotypes: The character of Bäckström is used as an Up to Eleven parody of Swedish prejudices about other nationalities.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Technically true as Olof Palme was murdered long before Persson started writing books. A Swedish Prime Minister with a suspiciously similar back-story gets murdered in Summer's Longing. Even the fictional First Lady is wounded in exactly the same manner as her real-life counterpart.
  • Nordic Noir: The novels are Scandinavian crime fiction with an added edge of seriously black humour.
  • One Steve Limit: On a professional visit to the FBI in Quantico, Police Chief Johannsson is amused to note his assigned FBI minder is a Swedish-American called Agent Baeckstroem who is as completely unlike the Bäckström he knows at home as it is possible to get. The American Bäckström is physically fit, incorruptible, does not drink, and refrains from foul language.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Bäckström's first Chief of Police introduced in Linda, as in The Linda Murder, a military-minded martinet with a hazy grasp of reality, who bunks off as often as he can to ride his beloved horse, a man who insists cavalry jodhpurs and spurs are a part of police uniform. He is pretty much forcibly retired on the grounds of insanity, and a more sensible, but necessarily distant, man takes over. Bäckström himself is this to his subordinates, who often have to sidestep him to get anything effective done.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Bäckström just about survives the events of The Linda Murder by the skin of his teeth and gets through a disciplinary over his extravagant expenses claims by luck and by calling in favours. But he is still posted to "Lost Property", the accepted end of the road for mediocre coppers. More flukes and a change of management (who does not know his reputation and who needs an experienced detective in a hurry) get him re-assigned to the murder investigation at the heart of He Who Slays the Dragon.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: The last novel in the series, The Dying Detective (Den döende Detektiven), sees Lars-Martin Johansson, recuperating after a stroke, reviewing a cold case which was bungled a quarter-century before by Bäckström. As his last piece of active police work, Johansson undoes the damage caused by Bäckström and solves an especially horrible murder.
  • Roman à Clef: In The Story of a Crime (Mellan sommarens längtan och vinterns köld), the character of "Pilgrim", the prime minister who is subject of an assassination attempt, is clearly Olaf Palme. Persson uses the novel — and its later TV adaptation — to present his theory that the still-unsolved murder of Sweden's Prime minister was an inside job by members of the police and security services who belonged to shadowy far-Right groupings.
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: The high-class hooker who picks up Bäckström in a bar one night - at the behest of the corrupt art dealer/gangster who is giving him backhanders in return for favours.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Bäckström calls his parrot "Isaak" owing to a chain of associations brought on by contemplation of its impressively large and hooked beak. This is of a piece with Bäckström's general attitude towards all ethnic minorities in Sweden: he isn't so much anti-Semitic as anti-everybody.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Bäckström believes he is the only true genius copper and everyone around him is a plodding dolt. He believes he is irresistable to women.
  • Spicy Latina: Officer Magdelena Hernandez, a positive product of Sweden accepting refugees from elsewhere. Also Officer Felicia Petterson — a Swede by upbringing, adopted from a South American orphanage by Swedish foster-parents. Bäckström's opinion of them is pretty much Spexico.
  • Take That!: Leif G.W. Persson worked for many years as a civilian advisor to the Swedish police.note He appears to know exactly what targets to skewer.
  • Triang Relations: Everybody thinks Annika Carlsson is a lesbian as she is unmarried, sporty, short-haired, taller than the average and well-muscled. But she has a secret torch for Bäckström. The motherly civilian assistant Nadja Högberg is also secretly fond of Bäckström. Meanwhile Officer Felicia Petterson, a classically gorgeous Spicy Latina who every male officer is in lust with, is gay and makes her lust for Annika Carlsson embarrassingly obvious. Felicia desires Annika who desires Bäckström — who is blithely ignorant of both. He also misses all the signals when Nadja brings a bottle of excellent Russian vodka to his apartment one night and they drink it together.
  • Vetinari Job Security: The Swedish force can't easily sack Bäckström. And he's such an objectionable shit of a man that every department he works with discovers the only way to get rid of him is to post him on with glowing references and promotion. Which is how he ends up as a Superintendent. And he has worked the system; he knows how to appeal against disciplinary offences. As he is ostensibly fighting against alcoholism he now has a medical defence against dismissal. And after heroically killing two Moslem immigrants who are now big-time crooks and perceived as untouchable note , he becomes a popular hero. And heroes cannot be sacked, as his bosses reluctantly admit.


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