Best new mini-series on TV

The FiveThe Five, written by international best-selling crime fiction author Harlan Coben and coming to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on July 4th, is just the latest in a crop of classy TV mysteries that have had viewers hooked in what has to be a golden age for crime TV. Here we take look at The Five and some of its similarly gripping mystery bedfellows to see what keeps audiences coming back…

The Five

Harlan Coben, the internationally best-selling author has sold millions of books around the world and has had a staggering eight consecutive number ones in the New York Times bestseller list, so you’d think he’d know all about putting together an enticing mystery. And you’d be right – The Five delivers one of the juiciest set-ups for a mystery in recent times (the DNA of a young boy who went missing 20-years earlier turns up at a murder scene being investigated by a friend of the missing boy’s brother), and turns it into the televisual equivalent of one of Coben’s un-put-downable page turners. Throw in a superb cast of British rising stars (including Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey, Sarah Solemani from Him & Her and OT Fagbenle from Looking) as well as respected stalwarts like Geraldine James (Utopia) and the overall effect is one of extreme class and quality that stands up alongside some of the big US guns for binge-ability. See our review

The Night Manager

Another author fairly familiar with the top of the bestseller list was behind what has arguably been the biggest UK TV production of recent years, with Tom Hiddleston perfectly capturing John Le Carre’s heroic, eponymous central character alongside a faultless-as-usual Olivia Colman and a never better Hugh Laurie. The twists and turns in the relationship between sort-of double agent Jonathan Pine and the moral black hole that is Laurie’s Richard Roper form the spine of the series, with the mystery element coming as much from the cat and mouse of that relationship as from the slight fear throughout that Pine might be playing everyone to advance his own interests. With stunning cinematography and a drum-taut script, it’s hardly a surprise that both Hiddleston and series director Susanne Bier are both apparently in the running for the next entry into the James Bond franchise. See our review [Read more…]

And Then There Were None, BBC1

Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Thomas Rogers (NOAH TAYLOR), Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), AJ Marston (DOUGLAS BOOTH), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Emily Brent (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Ethel Rogers (ANNA MAXWELL MARTIN)

Guilty looks – Aidan Turner, Noah Taylor, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth, Toby Stephens, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman, Sam Neill and Anna Maxwell Martin

A star-packed cast gathers for one of Agatha Christie’s best-loved mysteries

★★★½ BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm

BASED on the Queen of Crime’s bestselling mystery of all time, And Then There Were None gets a handsome showcase and starry cast from the Beeb to ensure this three-parter is a lavish treat for the Christmas holidays.

Agatha Christie’s mystery, recently voted her best by the Crime Writers’ Association, is Christie par excellence with its isolated island setting, a motley band of victims and suspects, and a fiendishy silly denouement.

Programme Name: And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: ++PURE DRAMA++ ++Publication of this image is strictly embrgoed until 18.01 hours Sunday November 8th 2015+++ Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Fred Narracott (CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

All at sea: The guests on their way to Soldier Island

But this is a beautifully produced mini-series that detracts nicely from the contrived nature of the story with stunning photography, discreet period touches and a terrific score.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, it is 1939 and ten strangers from differing backgrounds are lured to remote Soldier Island off the Devon coast for a get-together by the mysterious Mr and Mrs U N Owen. It’s not long before the guests all realise that none of them has ever met either of the Owens, who are absent from the cut-off island.

Aidan Turner as Lombard

One of the advantages of spreading the story over three episodes is that it unfolds slowly, so that tensions beneath the gentility gradually surface before the mayhem begins.

And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Behind the scenes on the set of And Then There Were None. Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), William Blore (BURN GORMAN) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Behind the scenes: Maeve Dermody, Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman and Sam Neill filming And Then There Were None

Topping the cast is Aidan Turner, now burdened with the status of Sex God thanks to that shirtless picture of him in Poldark reprinted 40,000 times by the newspapers. He plays the brooding Irishman Lombard here.

Charles Dance is the retired judge Wargrave, Miranda Richardson the snooty, god-fearing spinster Miss Brent, and Sam Neill plays General MacArthur. The strange atmosphere is helped by the odd servants, played by Noah Taylor and Anna Maxwell Martin.

The rest of the shifty-looking characters are performed by Toby Stephens, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth and Burn Gorman.

All of which makes it a rich confection of a show – and perfect for Christmas.

See also: agathachristie.com

• My recent feature in the Sunday Mirror: The celebrity kidnap that inspired Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

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