Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Period crime drama
Availability: Kanopy (AUS/NZ), Amazon UK, Britbox
Storyline: The first of this four-episode series is based on the book by Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2008. The investigation into the 1860s murder of three-year old Saville Kent created considerable press attention at the time, particularly as it related to the child of a wealthy family in terrible circumstances. Investigating officer Detective Inspector Jack Whicher, a working class member of the police, was discharged from his position following much press criticism and public shaming after arresting a well-born young woman for the crime. The subsequent three episodes are fictionalised accounts of Jack Whicher in his role as private enquiry agent, sometimes working with his old colleagues at the police, but more often in conflict with them. As he investigates similar crimes they trigger earlier traumas that expose the fragility of his own mental health.
Film-craft: Created for the ITV by the British Hat Trick Productions this is a finely detailed, high quality period drama. There is considerable attention to detail which provides the series a strong sense of authenticity. The historic Chatham Dockyard in Kent is used to great effect in depicting areas of London.
Cast: Playing the lead in the series, Paddy Considine is exceptional as Detective Inspector Whicher. In an outstanding performance he brings strength and vulnerability to the role and is a constant presence in all the episodes. Considine is ably joined by William Beck and Tim Pigott-Smith as his once supportive police colleagues, Dolly Williamson and Commissioner Mayne. All three provide an important continuity throughout the series. Other well-known actors then appear in single episodes, for example Peter Capaldi in episode 1, and Olivia Colman in episode 2, bringing further heft to the series.
Personal Comments: Not necessarily a fan of historical crime fiction I came uncertainly to this one. While there is a tendency to stereotype the societal underbelly of nineteenth-century London, writers Helen Edmondson and Neil McKay deftly explore the nuances of family life, crime, violence and issues of mental health, making this a successful and compelling series. If you like period drama with elements of crime, I expect you will like this one.