Friday, 24 February 2012

New books I WILL HAVE VENGEANCE, TV NOIR, FLESH AND BLOOD

Something for weekend – two fresh new crime novels and a history of TV noir to keep you busy between crime series. And drop by the new Crime Readers' Association site, which offers news, reviews events and exclusive events with crime and thriller authors.

I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio De Giovanni
This is published by Hersilia Press, the small UK outfit that specialises in translating fine Italian crime novels into English. They've come up with a really atmospheric story here, set in 1930s Naples where the enigmatic and aloof Commissario Ricciardi is investigating the murder of a wonderful tenor at the opera house. Of course, maestro Vezzi sang like a dream, but was a pig of a man, so motives for his killing abound. Ricciardi is an intriguing hero who carries the gift/curse of being able to see the dead at the moment of their deaths. So he is a lonely figure, haunted by the anguish of the victims and compelled to seek some justice for them. His grim focus on getting the job done makes him unpopular with his bosses, but he has a loyal deputy, Maione, to support him in what is a quite tender male relationship. Naples and the opera come alive in a fine mystery.

TV Noir: The Twentieth Century by Ray Starman
Brief but fascinating, this tour of noir television shows takes in many fondly remembered classics, such as Dragnet, The Untouchables, NYPD, Miami Vice and even The X Files. Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past provided the template for the morally ambivalent loners who morphed into anti-heroes such as Richard Kimble in The Fugitive or The Prisoner. So how noirish was the famously pastel-shaded Miami Vice? Starman points out that noir isn't all dark shadows and grey fedoras. It may have found its feet among in gangster and police dramas, but hard and existential noir was about wounded people in horror shows, Westerns or war stories. Fasten your seat belts…

Flesh and Blood by Mark Peterson
Here's another novel that will be unfamiliar to readers because it is by a fresh new British crime writer. It opens in spectacular fashion with a shooting and chase at Brighton Racecourse. We then meet ambitious young detective sergeant Minter, who's just joined Brighton's elite crime squad and is immediately made unwelcome by his old-school boss, Beckett. Drug wars, grisly murders and corruption make this a full-on thriller, but Peterson creates well-rounded, damaged characters to lift this above ordinary crime fare. Minter is a believable hero, having had a hard time as a child in a brutal care home, he's emerged as committed to the police but something of a conformist. However, he needs all his grit to get through the trial by fire that his first big detecting job turns into.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Murdoch Mysteries series 5 PREVIEW

Murdoch of the Klondike – with Jack London. (Pics: Alibi)
Rating: ★★★½

Alibi, Tuesdays from 28 February, 9pm

Story: Murdoch has left the Toronto police behind after being suspended and is prospecting for gold in the Canadian Rockies. He is heartbroken and feels guilty over a case he mishandled. But then he meets a woman who is suspected of murder…

This is a quirky series – CSI meets a Victorian Toronto populated by British soap actors. Not only is it set in the past but it is a distinctly old-fashioned bit of TV, having the look and feel of a hit series from the 1970s.

Not easily rattled – Dr Emily Grace
That is probably the secret of its success, being a straight good-triumphing-over-evil drama, with little bad language or gore, despite the frequent morgue scenes. The stories are based on the novels of Maureen Jennings and follow detective William Murdoch as he tries to solve murders using fledgling forensic techniques.

Murdoch, played by the doleful Yannick Bisson, may be quick on the new technology but he is a ditherer when it comes to romance. As the new series begins, he is still nursing a broken heart over Dr Ogden, who, after four series of Murdoch's faffing, finally married someone else.

EastEnders' Jill Halfpenny
So, having also been suspended over an investigation that went wrong, he is out in the Rockies prospecting for gold, and here we meet the show's big star – the fantastic scenery. Canada is simply stunning and looks convincingly like a lawless frontier. Anyway, while trying to keep a low profile, Murdoch meets Elizabeth Bryant (EastEnders and Waterloo Road's Jill Halfpenny), who is suspected of murder.

He tries not to get involved, but when she learns he is a detective and won't help her, he feels guilty. It's not long before Murdoch gets technical, in the forensic sense, with the bemused Mounties, and uncovers a murderous plot concerning gold.

Foyle's War returns 2013

'It’s great to be wanted and a pleasure to be back,' says actor Michael Kitchen, as ITV announces the return of Foyle's War in 2013. The setting for the much-loved period detective drama will shift from the war years to 1946-47, with Foyle in a new role of Senior Intelligence Officer on the trail of various traitors. The three stories – two written by author Anthony Horowitz, one by David Kane – will include Foyle tracking down atomic spies and a true tale of government corruption. 'I have returned to Foyle’s War because there are still some amazing stories I want to tell,' says screenwriter and novelist Anthony.  'The war may be over but Foyle’s career goes on.' Honeysuckle Weeks should return as Samantha Stewart, who is now married. The return of Foyle’s War has been in development since Acorn Media, a leading distributor of British television in the US, purchased rights to the series in 2010, when some fans feared the show was finished for good after series seven. ITV previously cancelled it in 2007, only for fan complaints to prompt its revival. Production starts in London in September.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Sheridan Smith in Mrs Biggs, Marton Csokas as Falcon

Danny Mays, Charmian and Sheridan Smith. Pic: ITV
Mrs Biggs, ITV1
• Sheridan Smith has been cast as Charmian Biggs in ITV1's new five-parter Mrs Biggs, about the wife of train robber Ronnie. Danny Mays will play the lad with a criminal record who wooed her – where else! – on a train. The couple struggled to stay together when her family did not like Biggs, and the tough times continued when Ronnie got involved in 1963's Great Train Robbery. He became a fugitive in Australia with Charmian and their children in tow, before he had to flee to Brazil. Sheridan has been recently been winning awards on the London stage for Legally Blonde and Flare Path, while recently on TV she was in Little Crackers and Gavin and Stacey. She said, 'When I received the call to say that I'd got this job I burst into tears. Charmian is an incredible woman, and I'm so lucky that she'll be on hand to support me and give me advice during the shoot. I hope that I can do her story justice.' An award-winning writer, Jeff Pope (Appropriate Adult, See No Evil: the Moors Murders), has been developing Mrs Biggs for four years.

Falcón, Sky Atlantic
More casting news – Marton Csokas, best known as Elven Lord Celeborn in Lord of the Rings, will play the title role of Javier Falcón in Sky Atlantic's first two-parter based on Robert Wilson's bestselling detective novels. Two two-parters about the Seville police inspector are in the pipeline, 'The Blind Man of Seville' and 'The Silent and the Damned'. Emilia Fox, Hayley Atwell and Bernard Hill will all appear in the first one. Perhaps Falcón , who is described as 'an innately sexual and charismatic character', can step into the gap left by the sadly axed Zen.
Stephen Mangan and Darren Boyd. Pic: BBC

Dirk Gently, BBC4
Dirk Gently, aka actor Stephen Mangan, will soon return to holistically solved some more crimes on BBC4. Darren Boyd will be at his side as partner Richard Macduff, along with Helen Baxendale as Macduff's girlfriend Susan. In episode one of this new three-part series, Dirk discovers the connection between two unrelated cases – a client who believes the Pentagon are trying to kill him and another whose horoscopes appear to be coming true.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 – Blu-ray Review


Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 Blu-ray
Episodes ★★★★★
Extras ★★★★★

Even on a second and third viewing, these episodes of 21st-century Holmes still fizz with wit and invention.

Seeing them again rams home how good the cast and the adaptations are. Benedict Cumberbatch as the 'high-functioning sociopath' is a superb bit of casting, while Martin Freeman's wonderful comic asides and reactions sum up perfectly the audience's response to the consulting detective's outrageous behaviour and capabilities.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scott is creepily off-beat as Moriarty, and it's good to see Rupert Graves (DI Greg Lestrade) playing something other than his usual cads. As for Una Stubbs, she's charming as Mrs Hudson.

So how did Holmes fake his death?
Co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who's also on-screen as Sherlock's adversary-brother Mycroft) could so easily have got this modern reboot wrong – and it will be interesting to see how Elementary, CBS's copycat idea in the States, fares in comparison. Instead, they have made the transition seem obvious and inspired at the same time.

My favourite episodes are the two series openers written by Moffat, 'A Study in Pink', which set up the whole edgy relationship between Holmes and Watson so cleverly, and 'A Scandal in Bohemia', with Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. But all six 90-minute stories are hugely enjoyable, and included in this boxset.

And, of course, it offers the chance to forensically scrutinise series two's cliffhanger to try to work out how Sherlock faked his own death. Did Molly provide the corpse that plunged off the roof? We never get a good look at the body whose pulse is checked by Watson, so is it Holmes? Did Holmes leap and land on the lorry? Moffat says the clues are there, but they're not conclusive – as far as I can see, anyway.

Sherlock – series 3
The extras included here are first class, including the original pilot episode of 'A Study in Pink', which was redone, prompting rumours at the time that the show was a turkey (how wrong were they?). There are also films called 'Sherlock Uncovered' and 'Unlocking Sherlock – The Making of'.

That will have to keep us occupied until series 3 is shown, which is unlikely to be before 2013.

Tinker Taylor Solider Spy
Episodes ★★★★
Extras ★★★
 
Benedict Cumberbatch also appears in the stellar British cast for another modern reboot, this time updating John Le Carré's spy thriller, which was originally filmed by the Beeb with Alec Guinness in 1979.

Gary Oldman, who recently missed out on the Best Actor Bafta to Jean Dujardin, is superb as George Smiley, the ex-MI6 agent recalled from retirement because his bosses are in a mess – namely, that they have a highly placed Soviet mole among them.

Mark Strong, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy are also among the rather sad bunch trying to believe in what they are doing for Queen and country, and playing some nasty games as they go. My slight preference is for the original two series, which obviously had more time to explore and depict Smiley's sadness and disillusion. 

The extras include an interview with Le Carré and deleted scenes.

• Also out is the new Blu-ray boxset of series one of The Fades, BBC3's gory horror about teenager Paul, who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams and the spirits of the dead. Includes some good extras, such as deleted scenes, out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage.

Boxsets and DVD supplied by BBCShop.com


Hustle – the final con


Tonight is the final scam for Mickey Bricks and the gang. The familiar face of former team member Stacie Monroe – aka actress Jaime Murray – is back in the frame for what she calls 'the biggest con they've ever done, the con to end all cons. It’s been five years since I was last on the show and within five minutes they were teasing me as if it was yesterday. They’ve known me since I was 24 and so treat me like a little kid, which I love! Matt Di Angelo is so funny and cheeky, he’s such a clown. He made me giggle the whole time and I told him he looks like a young Jude Law, which he loved!' Since she left, Jaime has been Stateside in shows such as Dexter, Warehouse 13 and Ringer.

As for Adrian 'Mickey Bricks' Lester, he nominates his and Marc Warren's naked dash across Trafalgar as his fave moment from the eight series. He says, 'As Marc Warren said, how many people can say I’ve run through Trafalgar Square naked! And I did it eight times! It's right up there with playing Hamlet. It could only work in a show like this because it was tongue in cheek, entertaining and silly but also poignant. It’s one of my favourite episodes because it had the perfect balance of character, disappointment, desire, jeopardy, fun, skill and clever plotting.

'Another of my favourite sequences is where I had to do the magician’s trick of hiding the pound coin, in Episode 1 series 5. I reached to the floor with nothing in my hands and then made it appear in my palm. Then the pick-pocketing... knocking over the wine, going in for the wallet and removing the credit card with one hand, close and replace the wallet, pocket the credit card and then saying goodbye with the man's car keys under my hat. Those sequences have been among my favourites.'

Will the gang go out in a shower of money, or a hail of bullets?

Hustle is on tonight on BBC1 at 9pm

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Awake with Jason Isaacs – Sneak Peek



Awake is a fantasy crime series premiering on NBC in the States on 1 March. It stars Jason Isaacs as a detective stuck between two realities who ends up leading a double life, and who soon discovers links between the twin worlds he inhabits. Boringly, Jason Isaacs is well-known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, when he has notched up exciting performances in series such as Brotherhood and the Beeb's Case Histories. Happily, Case Histories – based on Kate Atkinson's offbeat crime novels – should return later this year. In the meantime, see what he's been up to Stateside in what looks like an intriguing show…

Law & Order: UK – FINALE OF THE WEEK

Law & out of order – Sam gets a bit too close to victim Lucy. Pics: ITV
The last series ended with the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber). This Friday series six of Law & Order: UK concludes with another highly charged story (again written by Emila di Girolamo) in which Devlin's replacement, DS Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls) gets a little too involved with the victim of what could be a serial attacker. A police forensics technician is stabbed to death in her home. When the same attacker appears to strike again, the victim survives and is able to identify the man, a taxi driver. Rest assured – Sam's concern for Lucy (Lydia Leonard) involves plenty of fireworks with the prosecution team (Dominic Rowan and Freema Agyeman) and his boss, detective inspector Chandler (Harriet Walter). And despite some of the cops – Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) excepted – acting with a shocking lack of professionalism, there's a fittingly dramatic courtroom face-off to wrap up the series. ITV1, Friday, 17 February, 9pm

Friday, 10 February 2012

Those Who Kill, Laura Bach PREVIEW

Laura Bach as Katrine Ries Jensen and Jakob Cedergren as Thomas Schaeffer. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★½

ITV3, starts Thursday, 23 February, 10pm

Story: Deputy superintendent Katrine Ries Jensen is put in charge of her first big case – the discovery of the body of a Polish prostitute in the woods. She recruits forensic psychiatrist Thomas Schaeffer to assist her, and together they soon discover another four bodies buried nearby…

Comparisons between Those Who Kill and The Killing are inevitable.

They're both Danish, both are dark crime series, and both have a female protagonist. They also both feature actors Lars Mikkelsen (Troels in Killing I) and Carsten Bjørnlund (creepy Major Søgaard in Killing II).

Facing some grisly cases – Katrine and Thomas
But comparisons end there. Those Who Kill consists of six standalone 90-minute mysteries based on a special Copenhagen police unit that targets serial killers. While it doesn't have the depth of The Killing it does have quality, with interesting characters, tension and a pretty decent story.

Inner logic of dissocial individuals
Katrine Ries Jensen is given her first major case by Bisgaard (Mikkelsen), her boss. A corpse, buried six years previously, has been discovered in woods outside of the city. It is the remains of a Polish-born prostitute.

Thomas Schaeffer is a forensic psychiatrist who specialises in discerning the 'inner logic' of 'dissocial individuals'. Katrine disregards Bisgaard's fierce opposition to Schaeffer and brings him in to help  her investigation.

They immediately uncover four more female bodies buried in the woods. Schaeffer believes that the killer takes his time, has a fetish for controlling his victims, all of whom are blonde and single – like Katrine.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Inspector Montalbano NEW SERIES OF THE WEEK


• BBC Four's Saturday night slot at 9pm, recently the preserve of noirish Scandi dramas such as Borgen and The Killing, lets in some Sicilian sunshine this weekend with a whole 10-part series of Inspector Montalbano. The stories are based on the wonderful novels by Andrea Camilleri and, while dealing with some dirty crimes, are lighter than the northern European fare. Readers will recognise the bungling Catarella, Salvo Montalbano's seaside home and his tricky relationship with Livia – to whom he is occasionally unfaithful to his other love, the wonderful food on offer at Calogero's restaurant. The opening story, 'The Snack Thief', sees detective Montalbano investigating the death of businessman Lapecora, found stabbed in the lift of his apartment. His widow suspects he was killed by a lover, and suggests a young Tunisian woman called Karima. But Karima and her five-year-old son have disappeared. The designer-stubbled Luca Zingaretti has the right blend of wit and seriousness as Montalbano, and the town of Vigata and the neighbouring countryside looks heavenly. Starts: BBC Four, Saturday, 11 February, 9pm

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Kidnap and Ransom 2, Trevor Eve PREVIEW

Armed with his three mobiles – Dominic King (Trevor Eve). Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV1, starts Thursday, 23 February, 9pm

Story: Srinagar, Kashmir. Dominic King is negotiating the release of a British Asian family kidnapped while visiting their son, Mahavir. As the handover is completed, the police turn up unexpectedly and a shoot-out ensues. The kidnappers (Anwar and Leela) get away with Mahavir and in their panic they board a tourist bus, taking all the passengers hostage…

Dealing with homicidal hostage takers is not a barrel of laughs, which makes Trevor Eve the ideal actor to play Dominic King.

He doesn't do light-hearted. There were few giggles in Waking the Dead or Bouquet of Barbed Wire. But when it comes to the furrowed brow and tight lips, Eve is King, so to speak.

Even the trigger-happy police are hard work
His former military man turned hostage negotiator is back in the middle of a mighty mess here. A well-planned operation to free the kidnapped Mehta family goes wrong when the police provoke a shoot-out. The Mehtas' son, Mahavir, is snatched and the kidnappers, Anwar and Leela, hijack a bus containing British, American and German tourists.

Pregnant woman and a hostage with a secret
Making matters worse is the political indifference in London – the Foreign Secretary wants Dominic to step aside and leave negotiations to the trigger-happy Kashmir police.

Writer Michael Crompton, whose inspiration for this three-partner was the 1993 hijacking of a bus in Rio that spiralled out of control, skilfully weaves more drama into the crisis. So there's a pregnant woman among the hostages, intrigue about the kidnappers, the dying father ill with cancer and the eventual discovery that someone on-board is more valuable than the increasingly desperate Anwar realises.

Dominic, whose company, Beddoes King, negotiates for hostages on behalf of insurance firms, is a Sherlock Holmes among negotiators, expert in the science of crisis management and always one step ahead of police and gunmen. He virtually hijacks the crisis and buys more time to talk by exposing police incompetence to the world's media and getting in touch with Amwar via mobile phone.

Helen Baxendale – love interest?
However, he's not such an expert in managing his personal life. His second marriage, to Sophie, is breaking up, his reluctance to return from the trouble spots and support her career being the main reason.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Homeland, Damian Lewis, Claire Danes PREVIEW

Brody (Damian Leiws) is damaged by his time in captivity. Pics: C4
Rating: ★★

Channel 4 Week starting 18 Feb day and time to be announced

Story: Sgt Nicholas Brody has been released after eight years of captivity in a terrorist cellar in Afghanistan. He arrives home traumatised but to a hero's welcome. However, CIA operative Carrie Mathison is suspicious. She has information that a US prisoner has been 'turned', and despite not having the authority, she wants to keep Brody under surveillance.

Homeland arrives on a wave of good reviews and awards from the US, where it recently picked up best drama at the Golden Globes.

Starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, and made by the Emmy-winning executive producers of 24 (Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa), the opening episode certainly succeeds in delivering a thriller with ambiguous characters and intriguing twists.

Danes plays CIA agent Carrie Mathison, a driven woman whose job it is to uncover terrorist plots in the Middle East. As we meet her she is causing an international incident by bribing her way into an Iraqi prison to contact a man who is about to executed.

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes
Subsequently stripped of her role in the field, we next see her 10 months later when she has a desk job. Called into a briefing from her boss, David Estes, Carrie learns that Navy Seals raiding an Al-Qaeda safehouse in Afghanistan have rescued Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Lewis), who has been a prisoner for eight years.

Is Brody a hero or terrorist?
As Brody is welcomed home by a Vice President he can't even name, so long has he been gone, Mathison recalls what her doomed contact Iraq told her – that an American PoW had been 'turned'.

She suspects Brody, but doesn't have the credibility or authority to have him bugged and followed. So is Brody a war hero or is he a traitor who is about to trigger a terrorist attack in the US? Over 12 episodes we should find out, though a second series has already been commissioned.