Salamander finished its twelve-part run at the week-end, and I must say at the outset that, despite a few reservations, I really enjoyed this Belgian thriller, and I'm glad to hear that a follow-up series is proposed. Really, this was three stories in one. First, the hero Paul Gerardi's quest to solve the mysteries surrounding the enigmatic group known as Salamander. Second, the machinations of the people who had their own reasons for attacking that group. And third, the backstory of the mastermind behind the robbery which was meant to destroy Salamander.
In commenting on Shetland and DCI Banks the other day, I mentioned the increasing popularity of two-part crime series. The snag, of course, with a twelve-part series is that you need a very strong story to keep the viewer interested. Fortunately, Salamander rose to the challenge - although I have a sneaking suspicion that ten parts could have done the job. It moved a bit slowly in the last four or five episodes,and I felt that too much time was devoted to the backstory in war-time.
In terms of writing technique, I found it interesting to compare the show with Laura Lippman's After I'm Gone, which also relied heavily on flashbacks. On the whole, the novel worked better, because the flashbacks were integrated more subtly into the narrative, and did not occupy more time than was necessary. Having said that, the idea of corruption at the heart of a national establishment is one that has fascinated me for years, and I've often toyed with writing a thriller about it myself. Maybe one day...
One key factor that Salamander and After I'm Gone have in common is the focus on a very appealing and dogged detective's relentless hunt for the truth about a complex mystery. The two stories are very different, but the appeal of detective work is universal - at least when it's done as well as this.
A final observation - my original blog post about Salamander is now the second most viewed post in the history of this blog. Blogger stats are far from totally reliable, since they miss out some links, but there's not much doubt that I'm far from alone in having found this a very watchable series..