Sarah Lund vs Carrie Mathison

It's the age of the troubled female detective. So who's the best?

Two makes a trend, right? After the winningly unsmiling Sarah Lund in The Killing, Carrie Mathison is the latest troubled female investigator on our screens. It's still early days for Claire Danes's Mathison - we don't know if she will properly lose it a la Lund and get demoted to being a traffic policeman or whatever Lund was doing in that rainy Danish seaport, but we've seen enough of Danes's wide eyes and nervous chatter to know that her trajectory will be anything but smooth. So, how do they compare:

Risk-taking

So far Mathison has managed to get a vulnerable source killed off and has been illegally filming an US marine hostage in his own home. Risky. Lund's risks similarly involve her taking matters into her own hands, but that usually involves her wandering around a deserted warehouse looking for a psychopath with only a faltering torch for company. Also risky: a draw.

Lack of empathy and assorted psychological conditions

These ladies are troubled. Lund is troubled in a below-the-radar, emotionally stunted, no personal life sort of way. Mathison is troubled in a more slap-you-round-the-face obvious way of pill-popping, exaggerated facial expressions and talking extra-fast. Her condition is unspecificed, but she has "unstable" written all over that well made-up face. Neither seems to care much that their lives are entirely dysfunctional and lacking any kind of human intimacy - but given her deep-seated issues plus the lack of a convenient sibling who is a medical professional able to dispense drugs, Lund has to win this one.

Deduction skills

With Lund, you knew when she was Having A Thought because the music would get all tinkly and she would get a faraway look in her eyes before going off on her own without telling anyone where she was going. Lund's intuition and powers of deduction are legendary. Mathison, so far, has one mammoth hunch and very little evidence - and while Lund takes her cues from otherwise overlooked actual cues, Mathison is basing her theories on her own giant case of guilt-fuelled paranoia. Not promising. Point to Lund.

Family life

Lund has a long-suffering, neglected mother; Mathison has a long-suffering, neglected sister. A draw.

Famous clothing items

Nothing Mathison has worn so far comes even close to the woollen iconography of the Lund jumper. Clear win for Lund.

FINAL SCORE: 5 - 2 Lund. The Dane triumphs! (Over Danes. Sorry. Couldn't resist).

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Photo: Tashphotography / Stockimo / Alamy
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The Negroni fools no one – it’s easy to make and contains nothing but booze

It is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

The cocktail is designed to lie about its origins; no wonder it reached its apogee during Prohibition, which forced everyone with an unrepentant thirst to lie about their cravings. Even today, when only extreme youth, religious belief or personal inclination prevents a person from draining the bar dry, the cocktail continues its career of dishonesty. It hides ingredients or methods. It provides a front for poor-quality booze. And it often dissolves, within its inscrutable depths, mountains of sugar, enabling drinkers to pose as sophisticates while downing something that tastes like a soft drink – to get drunk without leaving the playpen.

This is why I love the Negroni, which fools no one. It is easy to make and contains nothing but pure booze. Despite being a third sweet vermouth, it isn’t saccharine: the other two thirds, equal measures of gin and Campari, may have something to do with this. And it is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

They say it was invented in Florence at the request of a Count Negroni, who wanted a drink unsullied by club soda – a drink stiff enough to get a man back on a bucking horse, perhaps, since this Count may have been a rodeo rider. I prefer to believe that the Count, if Count he was, came in, tossed down enough strong liquor to start telling stories about his American adventures, and, when he finally staggered out into the night, the exasperated bartender poured three straight shots into a single glass and baptised this wondrous reviver in grateful homage to the fabulist who had inspired it.

In a former glue factory a very long way from Florence or America, the East London Liquor Company now makes very good gin – Batches One and Two, the former tannic with Darjeeling as well as cassia bark, pink grapefruit peel, and coriander seeds; the latter redolent of savoury, bay, thyme and lavender. Transforming these plants into excellent alcohol seems an improvement on boiling down horses for adhesive, and the company also makes superb Negronis from Batch Two.

We sit outside, in a carpark made marginally more glamorous by border boxes of Batch Two botanicals, and marvel at the transformation of this grimy part of East London, next door to a park intended to give Victorian working men brief respite from lives all too lacking in myth or fantasy. It is a reincarnation at least as miraculous as the transformation of three strong and entirely unalike spirits into the delectable harmony of the Negroni. The sun shines; a fountain plashes. Nuts and charcuterie arrive. All is right with the world.

I leave my herbaceous bower and dangerously pleasing drink for a peek at the large copper distillery behind the bar, walking in past the fountain, a whimsical stone construction that pours vermilion liquid into two, tiered basins topped by a chubby putto clutching a rather reluctant fish.

And then I stop. And double back. Vermilion liquid? It is, indeed, a Negroni fountain. There are even slices of orange floating in the basin. I dip a finger: the taste is slightly metallic but still undeniably that potent mixture of booze, botanicals, bitterness, and just a hint of sweetness. A streak of citrus from the orange slices. It turns out that the world’s most straightforward cocktail lends itself to a decadent neo-Renaissance fantasy. There’s a message here, one forthright as a temperance tract: without imagination, we would have no lies – but no Negronis, either.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder