The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – The Murder in Angel Lane Review: Paddy Considine shines but Olivia Colman is misused in this overlong period crime drama

by Matt D


In 2011, ITV screened a one-off drama entitled The Suspicions of Mr Whicher which saw Paddy Considine take the role of Jack Whicher a Scotland Yard Detective who would go on to become one of the first private detectives. That drama was based on an actual case while the real-life Whicher would go on to be the inspiration for Conan-Doyle to write Sherlock Holmes. Now ITV are airing a second Whicher drama, this time entirely fictional, which revolves around Whicher’s quest to solve a murder committed in Angel Lane.

Since the last episode, Whicher has left the police force and now spends his time gardening and being looked after by his niece. One night, in the fairly unsavoury Angel Lane, Whicher follows a respectable woman into a grotty-looking inn. When in the pub the woman, later revealed to be Susan Spencer, is robbed by one of the patrons however Whicher is on hand to apprehend the thief. After Susan tells Whicher she doesn’t want any charges to be brought against the thief, she informs him that she has come to this part of London in order to find her niece Mary. It transpires that the pregnant Mary came to London to track down Stephen Gann, the father of her baby, but has not been in contact with her aunt since she left. Whicher returns to his old Scotland Yard office in order to recount Susan’s story which gets the interest of Inspector Lock and his former chief inspector Dolly. The pair promise to look into the case and soon find a murdered woman who meets Mary’s description. As Whicher and Susan got to identify the body, Susan is convinced that the victim is not her niece so is devastated when she discovers it is.

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As this is now a murder investigation, the police get involved so tell Whicher to stay off the case as he is no longer an officer. However, Susan trusts Whicher over any of the other detectives so his him as a ‘private enquiry agent’ promising him payment if he solves the crime. While the police are convinced that Mary was killed for the fancy pendant that was around her neck, Whicher thinks that the crime is more complex than that. Firstly, after finding the convent in which Mary was staying, Whicher is able to track down Mary’s baby son and finds out that Mary went out again to find Stephen. Whicher later learns the history between the two families, as he discovers that Stephen’s father was jailed for the murder of Susan’s father. Keen to look into this story further, Whicher travels to Hopewood House to talk to Stephen’s grandfather Joshua. Whicher is incredibly spooked by the asylum and finds Joshua to be a very vacant man who has very few lucid moments. Whicher later decides to take himself of the case after his theories about a grave are proved to be wrong. However, after attending Mary’s funeral, he thinks he’s on to something once again. As he spends more time at the asylum, Dr Casement believes that Whicher may be suffering from delusional thoughts brought on by the trauma of his last case. Whicher’s investigation also sees him butt heads with his former colleagues however Inspector Lock seemingly still values Whicher as a valuable detective. However, the drama has a couple of twists along the road which will shock some viewers and find Whicher trapped against his will unable to find the killer.

When coming to watch this new instalment of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, I was troubled when I couldn’t really remember the first episode of the drama. Indeed, I had to read back over one of my old reviews to remind myself of both the character and the trauma he faced on the last case. If Mr Whicher returns in another two years, I feel that I’ll be doing the same thing as I can only describe this as being forgettable. The problem I had the Mr Whicher character is that he is quite removed from the action and doesn’t’ really attribute any personable characteristics. It’s obvious that Whicher is an honourable man who is incredibly intelligent but at the same time I found him fairly hard to like. Similarly the other characters were also fairly cold with the only interest coming from the character of Joshua, the grandfather suffering from dementia. Neil McKay’s script is incredibly stretched and I really didn’t feel that the story sustained itself over the two hour runtime. Indeed, after being drawn in by the initial premise, I found the vast majority of the programme was a chore to get through until the last twenty minutes or so. One thing I do have to praise the creative team for is the period detail which, once again, is spot on. From the cold haunted rooms of the asylum to the smoke-filled pubs on Angel Lane, I felt like I was watching a drama that was set in the second half of the 19th century.


Another of Mr Whicher’s strengths is in its casting of the wonderful Paddy Considine who is absolutely gripping as the emotionally torn lead detective. While the character of Whicher may not be that engaging, Considine tries his best and I feel he is the right man for the job. What I was surprised by was how little Olivia Colman was used in her role as the grief-stricken Aunt Susan. In fact Colman has been used fairly substantially in the promotion of this Mr Whicher episode, but anybody tuning in just for her might be slightly disappointed. Obviously Colman is still great in the role of Susan and most of the highlights of the piece are when she and Considine are on screen together. But her role is that of victim’s family member and she doesn’t get to do a lot outside of that. Of the rest of the cast, I felt Alistair Petrie was suitably sinister as the asylum head Dr Casement while Shaun Dingwall also provided some good support as Whicher’s loyal friend George Lock.

Overall, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is your average Sunday night crime drama and doesn’t feel particularly original at all. The story is fairly uninspiring and feels like it has been stretched to fit the slot it has been given in the schedules. While the period detail and the performances of Considine and Colman are spot on, I found The Suspicions of Mr Whicher to be another unremarkable affair that I’ll struggle to remember in a couple of weeks’ time.

What did you think of the Suspicions of Mr Whicher – The Murder in Angel Lane? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Leave Your Comments Below.

1 Comment

  1. R G Parkyn on May 13, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Wonderful and atmospheric production which draw the viewer into the streets of Victorian London. Paddy Considine superb as expected and well supported by a very capable cast and production team. There needs to be more of this!

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