Last night saw the start of ITV1’s new Lynda La Plante two-part drama, Above Suspicion and, in case you missed it, here’s a recap and review.
The concluding part is on tonight at 9pm.
A beautiful teenage girl has been missing for five days and when her dead body is found hidden on waste ground, DCI Langton – played by Ciaran Hinds – heads up the murder enquiry.
Over a period of eight years, there have been six virtually identical murders of women, all found with their hands tied with their stockings or tights, and strangled in the same way as this new victim…
All the other murdered women were prostitutes, their tough lives reflected in the brutal circumstances of their deaths. The latest seventh victim though is Melissa who was a teenage student, middle–class and from a good family, not the usual profile at all. So, faced with seven victims and few clues, enter DC Anna Travis, the new police kid on the block.
Fresh out of training school, Anna Travis – played by Kelly Reilly – is a young and ambitious officer who’s fast-tracking her way through the ranks, eager to prove herself to be as successful as her late father.
Her new boss, the volatile Detective Chief Inspector Langton, knew Anna’s father who was also a police officer and he made it clear to her that she was only on his team as a mark of respect to her father.
We first met Anna Travis as she was hurrying to the scene where Melissa’s body was found and promptly threw up when the body she was there to see was revealed.
And an amazing feat of special effects that body was too, complete with maggots and decomposition; I was glad we don’t yet have smell-o-vision. At this early point in the show, I found Anna hard to believe as a character. She’d made the rank of Detective Constable but attended the scene in a suit and high heels that were more suited to a high class PA.
To be honest, all through the programme, I couldn’t really buy into Anna – I just didn’t feel that she was a convincing copper, but there again, maybe I’m just used to expecting stereotypes.
Anyway, the story went on and we learned that all seven women had been murdered with the same modus operandi and following a press conference, an ex-copper rang the incident room insisting that he had evidence relevant to the case. He wouldn’t give details over the phone and demanded that an officer go to Spain to see him at his home.
It transpired that the man in question, Barry Southwood, had been a ‘bent’ copper who now made a living by renting out his villa to porn film makers. John Savident played this unsavoury character excellently. As a wheelchair bound, bigoted, sexist and embittered old man, who wanted the reward money on offer, he eventually told Anna – after she threatened to tip the crippled man out of his chair and into his stagnant swimming pool – that he knew of a case many years before that had startling similarities in MO to her current murders.
He went on to tell her that in his case, it was the murdered woman’s son who was suspected of killing her; one Anthony Duffy. The case against him couldn’t be proved but Duffy certainly had reason to hate his mother. She was a prostitute who ran a brothel and in doing so, neglected the child so often that he was frequently sent to foster carers.
The discovery of this old murder proved to be the first break for the police as it gradually led to the revelation that all the murdered women, bar the latest victim, knew each other and had at some point been in the house Duffy grew up in.
However, Duffy is now a grown man and a famous actor at that. Alan Daniels, as Duffy is now known, is about to break into Hollywood movies and is a household name in Britain.
The police are convinced that Alan Daniels could be their prime suspect but they have not one shred of solid evidence to prove he’s the killer. There’s certainly reason for suspicion, for instance, he’s had recent dental work but has seemingly destroyed his records and as the latest victim was found to have had her tongue bitten off, getting a dental match from the killer would close the case. Without them, the police can prove nothing.
Similarly, Daniels once owned a Mercedes that could well have been the one that the police believe Melissa was taken to her death in, but Daniels had his crushed three days after her murder. No car, no evidence.
At the time that the police were searching his flat, Daniels encountered Anna – who did a desperately poor job of searching I might add – and seemed to be fascinated by her, so much so that he managed to get her telephone number and called to invite her on a date.
She told her boss about this and he decided that a ‘honey trap’ might just get Daniels to let slip something that would prove his guilt, however, Langton was worried that he could be putting Anna’s life in danger if Daniels really was the killer.
To help him assess the risk, he called in a profiler to observe filmed footage of Daniels. His final conclusion was that Daniels could well be a devious and dangerous sociopath.
However, Langton was so desperate for a break in the case, he embarked on a risky course of action which he hoped will result in Daniels’ arrest without any accusations of police entrapment or danger to DC Anna Travis.
As we left last night’s first part, Langton encouraged Anna to befriend Daniels and accept his invitation to go out the following evening, which she did. But, a new potential suspect had just come onto the radar in the form of John McDowell who was a known violent criminal who also had links with the house in Manchester where Daniels mother ran the brothel.
Will this man turn out to be the killer? Are he and Daniels in it together? We’ll find out tomorrow!
SO… what did you make of Above Suspicion?
I’m still not feeling the love for Anna and couldn’t seem to relate to her very much. I mean, would anyone, police officer or not, attend a murder scene in a business suit and high heels? I doubt it.
Would they also continue to turn up for work dressed so inadequately and inappropriately? If there’s a good chance you’re going to be grubbing around a murder scene or attending a mortuary, would you really want to dress like you were about to take the minutes in Alan Sugar’s boardroom?
I also found that the undercurrent of political in-house warring between police departments was a tad clichéd too, as was the ‘tease the new girl’ thing. I don’t doubt it goes on, it’s just that with La Plante, it’s always rather more a theme than it needs to be I feel.
There’s also the ever present grizzled old-timer who doesn’t like change and views everyone with disdain while bemoaning his lot from behind either a whisky glass or a smoking cigarette.
With Prime Suspect, the political aspect was central to the story as DCI Tennison forged her way through the primarily male ranks, but in a latter day setting, I don’t feel it’s as crucial to the story anymore and find its presence only a deviation from the real plot.
That said, I’d watch Lynda La Plante’s shopping list were it to be adapted for TV so I’m really only nit picking.
Another tiny niggle – which I touched on in the recap – was the ‘search’ that was conducted at Daniels flat. Now, I’m not a police officer but frankly, I’ve done more thorough searches of my kids bedrooms looking for contraband fags than his flat got.
Anna flicked through some magazines and ran a hand over the top of some CDs; it wasn’t exactly exhaustive. She didn’t even check the sofa he was sitting on!
Again, I’m probably just being pedantic and getting hung up on points of no consequence when you consider the dramatic weight of the storyline and the marvellous special effects and acting.
John Savident, who of course played Fred Elliot in Coronation Street, was brilliant as Southwood, a sad-act and bitter ex-cop with a disdain for women and a need for cash.
His character fairly oozed slime and John shed his Fred colours as neatly and apparently effortlessly as a chameleon standing in front of a disco ball. I hope this won’t be the last we see of him on our screens in new roles too!
I can’t wait to see the conclusion tonight and I’m sure, as is usually the case with La Plante, it’ll be an edge-of-your-seater!