The Secret, ITV, James Nesbitt

Gripping account of the murders committed by Northern Irish couple Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan

★★★ ITV, Friday, 29 April, 9pm

SOMETIMES the true story on which a drama is based is so riveting it almost can’t fail to keep you rooted to the sofa. This ITV series is one of those.

It recounts the crime committed by a couple in Northern Ireland, Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan. They met at their local Baptist church and started an affair that had appalling consequences. Greed, lust, hypocrisy and evangelism make it a distressing but compelling story [as this is a true story, there are some spoilers in this preview].

From Hat Trick Productions The Secret: Ep1 on ITV Pictured: Hazel Buchanan [Genevieve O'Reilly] and Colin Howell [James Nesbitt]. This photograph is (C) Hat Trick Productions and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: james.hilder@itv.com

Secret liaison: Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Colin Howell (James Nesbitt)

It is accompanied by fine performances by James Nesbitt as the dentist Howell and Genevieve O’Reilly as Buchanan, along with an unflashy but convincing script from Stuart Urban. Nesbitt, in particular, is so believable as the grossly self-serving “Christian” that before the first episode is even finished you want to punch the screen every time he appears.

A faked suicide pact

In the first of four episodes, we watch the genesis of the affair. While Howell’s wife, Lesley, is expecting their fourth child, he begins to pursue married schoolteacher Buchanan.

They know each other through their local Baptist church. However, when their secret trysts are exposed, their spouses – Lesley and Trevor, Hazel’s policeman husband – are crestfallen that their devoutly religious partners could be so dishonest and disloyal.

From Hat Trick Productions The Secret: Ep1 on ITV Pictured: Hazel Buchanan [Genevieve O'Reilly] and Colin Howell [James Nesbitt]. This photograph is (C) Hat Trick Productions and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: james.hilder@itv.com

The apparently respectable dentist: Colin Howell

Lesley, in particular, is plunged into depression, which Colin uses when he later stages her and Trevor’s joint ‘suicide’.

Nesbitt is totally loathsome in the role. Fresh from Lucky Man, Sky1’s high-concept crime series, he is of course far more grittily down-to-earth here.

Lies, deceit, murder

It is no doubt a role he took seriously as he knows the backstory and setting well. The actor says: ‘I’ve talked to many people who will have known Colin. I’m from Coleraine. He lived opposite my sister, they had the same cleaner, my sister went to some of Lesley’s coffee mornings, which I only found out recently.’

Settle down and watch open-mouthed as his smarmy, Bible-quoting creep tells his distraught wife, who is getting by on pills and booze, ‘This is not how a Christian wife should behave.’

From Hat Trick Productions The Secret: Ep1 on ITV Pictured: Trevor Buchanan [Glenn Wallace] and Hazel Buchanan [Genevieve O'Reilly]. This photograph is (C) Hat Trick Productions and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com For further information please contact: james.hilder@itv.com

Doomed couple: Trevor Buchanan (Glen Wallace) and Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve O’Reilly)

This from a murdering, lying, deceitful manipulator who would go on to be additionally convicted of abusing female patients whom he sedated in his dentist’s chair.

You couldn’t make it up.

Read more at…

Mirror: My dentist husband was a double-killer

Belfast Live: Killer dentist Colin Howell’s £587k pension axed after convictions for groping patients

Daily Mail: Lovers who nearly got away with perfect murders

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review and support! People interested in the true crime aspect may like to read my Writer’s Blog at stuarturban.com (scroll down below the reviews).
    Stuart Urban, Writer & Executive Producer, The Secret.

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