Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Programme Name: Strike - The Cuckoo's Calling - TX: 15/11/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Robin Ellacott (HOLLIDAY GRAINGER), Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE) - (C) Bronte Films - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Attraction of opposites: Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) and Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke)

Entertaining three-parter following JK Rowling’s rough-but-ready private eye Cormoran Strike

★★★★

BBC1, Sunday, 27 August, 9pm

A COUPLE of years ago I was at a launch party to announce the nominations for the Crime Writers’ Association annual awards. Many of the UK’s leading crime writers were there.

Word went round the mingling authors and publishing folk that a ‘special’ guest could be arriving soon. Finally, there was a hush – the special guest had arrived. Necks were craned and there she was – JK Rowling.

It seemed extraordinary that a gathering of so many of the best crime authors around should be in near awe of her. She had been nominated for one of her books written as Robert Galbraith, the adult crime series she turned to following the conclusion of Harry Potter.

Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike

But it’s not just Potter fans and other writers by whom she is admired. I’m one of those who like her for taking no crap from ignoramuses on Twitter, for insisting the Potter movies were made in the UK, and for triumphing so splendidly over the critic-snobs who sniffed that she couldn’t write. 

The authors at the CWA that evening no doubt appreciated that only a special talent could sell 100million books. So, her latest adaption coming to BBC1 is bound to attract a huge amount of attention.

Programme Name: Strike - The Cuckoo's Calling - TX: 15/11/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE) - (C) Bronte Films - Photographer: Steffan Hill

Cormoran Strike (TOM BURKE)

The Beeb has already offered a JK Rowling miniseries a couple of years ago. The Casual Vacancy starred Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes and Michael Gambon. It was a mystery exploring dodgy dealings in an English village.

It was a decent but rather forgettable show. I prefer this latest drama. Tom Burke is a charismatic lead as the one-legged, bear-like private eye Cormoran Strike. He is thrown together with Holliday Grainger as his new, super-efficient temp Robin Ellacott – an odd couple with a spark of attraction.

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Narcos 3 trailer

The drug king is dead, long live the cartel! In series one and two we saw the rise and fall Pablo Escobar. Season three of Narcos, which comes to Netflix on 1 September, will show how the authorities went after his successors in Cali Cartel. This is strong, breathless stuff, but a compelling take on what can happen when the criminals come close to toppling the state. Check out the trailer…

The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

TELEVISION has offered several superb true-crime documentaries and dramas recently.

Making a Murderer and The Keepers have been thought-provoking and absorbing. Meanwhile, dramas such as Code of a Killer and Rillington Place have sensitively explored crimes that seem inexplicable and shocking.

I have now made a contribution to the true-crime bookshelves with The Hunt for the 60s' Ripper. This is a reinvestigation into a shocking unsolved series of murders from the 1960s – and one that today is largely forgotten.

More victims than Jack the Ripper

The Nude Killings occurred in west London in 1964-65 and saw six prostitutes murdered and left naked in public places. The unknown culprit, indelicately called Jack the Stripper by the media at the time, claimed more victims than Jack the Ripper 77 years previously.

In addition, two other killings – in 1959 and 1963 – were tentatively linked to the tally.

The killing spree sparked the biggest police manhunt ever seen, with hundreds of officers scouring west London for the perpetrator, including WPCs disguised as prostitutes. 

Swinging London's dark secret

It is an extraordinary case, touching the Kray gang and the Profumo Scandal. London was Swinging – the Beatles were performing at the Hammersmith Odeon that year and the Who were making a name for themselves in clubs around the Goldhawk Road. Meanwhile, a calculating killer was stalking those same streets for vulnerable women in the sex trade.

Why was he never caught? Who might it have been? And why is this shocking case unknown to many people these days?

These questions are all explored in The Hunt for the 60s' Ripper, which is currently on discount – £3.85 – on Amazon and at Tesco.

Oh, and one or two TV producers have been prompted by the book to consider the case for a new series…

Top of the Lake: China Girl

Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: Top Of The Lake: China Girl (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: Detective Robin Griffin [ELISABETH MOSS] - (C) See-Saw Films (TOTL2) Holdings Pty Ltd - Photographer: Grant Matthews

Dark twist: Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss)


Top-quality drama, set in Sydney, sees the return of detective Robin Griffin

★★★★½

BBC2, starts Thursday, 27 July, 9pm

JANE CAMPION’S Top of the Lake returns and it really is a distinctive drama. It unsettles and then slowly immerses you in a troubling scenario involving the sex trade and murder.

Detective Robin Griffin, played by Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss again, returns to Sydney after her four traumatic years in New Zealand. It was there that she dealt with the child sex-ring case, which was dealt with in the original 2013 series.

She is fragile and struggling after her experiences, not helped by the sniggers and chauvinism of her colleagues in Sydney. She is also still haunted by the daughter she gave up at birth. However, it is a frosty welcome that she gets. Even her brother Liam turfs her out of his flat when he needs her room back.

Gwendoline Christie as Miranda

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 18/07/2017 - Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: Top Of The Lake: China Girl (No. Ep 1) - Picture Shows: NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 18TH JULY, 2017 Detective Robin Griffin [ELISABETH MOSS], Miranda Hilmarson (GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE) - (C) See-Saw Films (TOTL2) Holdings Pty Ltd - Photographer: Sally Bongers

Cliff-hanger – Detective Robin Griffin [Elisabeth Moss], Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie)

Her cop partner, Miranda (Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie) is one of her few allies. Robin’s hope is that by throwing herself into work she will find some equilibrium again.

She is confronted by a disturbing case. The body of a young woman is swept onto Bondi Beach. While there seems little chance of finding the killer of ‘China Girl’, Robin discovers that the victim did not die alone. The case drags her into the seedier, darker recesses of the city.

Oscar-winning director Jane Campion has created and written a brooding, engrossing six-part series. She lets the story unfold visually in passages without dialogue, pulling you in as you become curious about the characters’ lives.

Nicole Kidman as Julia

Programme Name: Top Of The Lake: China Girl - TX: n/a - Episode: First Look (No. First Look) - Picture Shows: Julia (NICOLE KIDMAN) - (C) See Saw Productions Australia - Photographer: Sally Bongers

Controlling mother – Julia (Nicole Kidman)

Among them are Mary (Alice Englert), a student with an enigmatic ‘professor boyfriend’ Puss (David Dencik). She is the difficult adopted daughter of Julia (Nicole Kidman) and Pyke (Ewen Leslie).

Several storylines overlap, including one in which a group of sleazy young men compare notes on sex workers they use who advertise themselves on the internet.

It is a menacing world for Robin Griffin to get into, but a gripping and brilliantly made drama for us to follow.

Dead Beautiful starring Thierry Godard

Dead Beautiful episode 1

Beauty and the beast: a serial killer is on the loose

French cop procedural with good storytelling and a chilling case

★★★½

All 4, from Friday, 4 August 

DEAD BEAUTIFUL is the latest foreign-language crime series to hit ALL 4’S Walter Presents strand. This has offered some terrific offbeat foreign dramas since its launch in January last year. From Deutschland 83 to The Swingers, the quirky best of Norway, France, Mexico, Switzerland and other countries have been sifted for some minor gems.

Dead Beautiful, a French series, is decent enough, but not particularly special. It’s a police procedural of the type Britain already produces in abundance – from Endeavour to Grantchester and on and on.

It is chock-full of the usual plot suspects – dead women, a crumpled detective, forensics, where were you on the night of the 14th?

Thierry Godard as Martin

What it has got is an intriguing opening story about a serial killer. Each episode is a separate case and if they all have as many twists and gasps as this one, the series should satisfy many crime fans. The stories are based on a successful series of books  by Alexis Lecave, who is also the screenwriter here.

Thierry Godard in Dead Beautiful

Complicated love life: Thierry Godard as detective Martin

In addition it has Thierry Godard. He is a much in-demand French star with more than 50 films on his CV. He should be familiar to BBC4 fans of Spiral, in which he played Gilou. Here he steps up from the cast to lead star as detective Martin, on the trail of a nasty killer who targets women with a crossbow.

The murderer selects his victims from lonely-hearts columns, always seeking women with light eyes and chestnut-coloured hair.

The stakes are high for Martin and his team. At times the hunt for the elusive killer feels like an adrenalin-fuelled evening at a top online casino.

Dead Beautiful’s plot twists and good characters

There are nine 100-minute episodes. This allows the makers to flesh out the characters and move beyond the procedural stuff, which in many series can get boring.

So we get an insight into Martin’s complicated love life – lovers include a colleague, a journalist, and his ex-wife, who he is still sleeping with – and his relationship with his fiery actress daughter.

Summer is the season of repeats and dud shows that can’t usually be placed anywhere else in the schedules during other times of the year. Dead Beautiful should help filled the dog days.

Ozark with Jason Bateman, Laura Linney Trailer

This new dark drama coming to Netflix on 21 July looks pretty good. It’s got Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as Marty and Wendy Byrde. Marty is a financial adviser, but his sideline is money-laundering for a Mexican drug cartel. When things go disastrously wrong, Marty and Wendy have to grab their kids, hit the road and… well, check out the trailer.

Riviera, Julia Stiles, Sky Atlantic

Riviera Julia Stiles

High stakes – Julia Stiles as Georgina Clios

Super-intrigue among the super-rich on the Côte d’Azur

★★★ Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 15 June, 9pm

BEAUTIFUL CARS and yachts, lush scenery and a top-of-the-range cast make this thriller a feast for the eyes from the moment it gets going. Fortunately, the intrigue ensures there is more to it than surface gloss.

Julia Stiles, of Bourne fame, heads a cast that includes Adrian Lester, Iwan Rheon and Lena Olin. She plays Georgina Clios, an art curator who travelled the world buying masterpieces for billionaire Constantine (Anthony LaPaglia). He eventually decided to acquire her, too, and they married.

Riviera - Series 01 Sky Atlantic

Watchful – Adrian Lester as Robert Carver

Secrets and betrayals

When we meet them the marriage is a year old. This is a couple who can have a telephone conversation in which neither bats an eyelid over a snap decision on buying a painting for £30million.

However, an explosion on a super-yacht in Monte Carlo suddenly opens Georgina’s eyes to the fact that Constantine kept many secrets from her.

His ex-wife and the local detectives ask questions that alert her to his many secrets and betrayals. The first episode finishes on a neat cliffhanger that should make most thriller fans eager to see more.

Riviera - Series 01

Live fast, die rich – there is a lot at stake for the glitterati

Created by Neil Jordan

This is a terrifically lavish 10-parter from Sky Atlantic, created and co-written by Neil Jordan, who won a screenplay Oscar for The Crying Game. It is so intimidatingly a portrait of the super-rich, it makes The Night Manager, which it clearly is its companion piece, look cheap.

It even seems to have more yachts, super-yachts, bling cars, motorbikes and other hardware than a Bond film.

However, the theme of a woman delving into her her husband’s menacing secrets, is rich enough to make Riviera a high-class treat.

Orange Is the New Black 5 trailer

Things are hotting up for the new series, starting Friday 9 June. Check out the preview…

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