|Shaun Dingwall as Inspector Lock and Paddy Considine as Jack Whicher. Pics: ITV|
ITV: Sunday, 12 May, 8pm
Story: Jack Whicher is no longer an inspector and has left the Metropolitan Police under a cloud. But when he saves a country lady from a robbery in a dangerous quarter of London, he learns that this woman, Susan Spencer, is desperately hunting for her vulnerable young niece, Mary.
KATE SUMMERSCALE uncovered a quite jaw-droppingly fascinating Victorian tale when she wrote her non-fiction book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which ITV then made into an engrossing drama in 2011.
This second film, again starring Paddy Considine, steps away from fact into fiction by imagining how the real Inspector Whicher got on following the ignominy of failing to solve the Murder at Road Hill House in 1860. Whicher suspected the correct culprit – Constance Kent – of murdering her younger half brother, Francis, but failed to bring her to trial.
|Olivia Colman as Susan|
Private inquiry agent
Constance later confessed and went to jail (her death sentence was commuted) and she lived to a ripe old 100 years anonymously in Australia. Whicher, one of a new breed of detectives and an inspiration for Charles Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, found it hard to live down his failure to secure conviction, and had ruffled the feathers of his social superiors for his conduct of an investigation into a well-to-do family.
Summerscale’s book reveals that Whicher married his landlady, Charlotte Piper, in 1866 and the next year was working as a private inquiry agent, though he probably didn’t need the money as he had a decent police pension.
Searching for a vulnerable young woman in dangerous London
The new film, entitled The Murder in Angel Lane, is written by Bafta-winner Neil McKay (Appropriate Adult, Mo, Heartbeat) and based on further historical research.
So fictional Whicher comes to the aid of a country lady, Susan Spencer, who’s had her purse clipped by a thief in a rough inn in London. She reveals she is desperately trying to find her niece, 16-year-old Mary, who is looking for the young man, Stephen Gann, who made her pregnant.
Played with emotional intensity in another terrific performance by Olivia Colman, Susan employs the former inspector to track down Mary.
Whicher is pitched into a puzzling murder inquiry and territorial rows with some of his old police colleagues, arriving eventually at a sinister lunatic asylum – a reminder of how awful those 19th-century institutions could be. It is a complex story of stolen inheritances, murder, police corruption and illegitimate children.
While it lacks the power of the original true story, this new drama is an intriguing insight into a dark side of the Victorian age. The production, acting and writing are all very sharp, and there seems every possibility that Jack Whicher won’t be allowed to fade into history just yet and is nicely poised for future investigations.
Cast: Paddy Considine Jack Whicher, Olivia Colman Susan Spencer, William Beck Chief Inspector ‘Dolly’ Williamson, Tim Pigott-Smith Commissioner Mayne, Shaun Dingwall Inspector George Lock, William Postlethwaite Stephen Gann, Mark Bazeley Thomas Gann, Sean Baker Joshua Gann, Alistair Petrie Dr Casement, Joanna Jeffrees Nursemaid, Siobhan O’Neill Housemaid, Asher Kemp Baby Stephen, Justine Mitchell Sister Anne, Angela Terence Charlotte, Sam Barnard Robert, Justin Edwards Rev Marlow