Frank Hathaway, an ex-police inspector is running his own private investigation business in Stratford– which consists of him, his aspiring actor assistant Sebastian, and a growing list of bills – when he is hired by Luella Shakespeare to investigate her husband-to-be, Clive, of infidelity. Despite there being no evidence, Frank has a hunch something is wrong – and when Luella is arrested for Clive’s murder directly after the wedding, the two join forces to prove her innocence.
Following on from proving her innocence (hardly a spoiler, given the premise of the series), Luella becomes Frank’s partner. And needless to say, suddenly Stratford has become a hotbed of mysterious murders that require their talents to solve – at least nine more in fact…
I’m not a massive watcher of daytime TV, and another afternoon crime show would have passed me by were it not for the location – Stratford and Warwickshire in general are basically on my doorstep – so I thought I’d give it a try. And, I’ll be honest, I do like a bit of Shakespeare, so the vague theme (which doesn’t really extend much beyond our heroes’ names and the episode titles) helped convince me to give it a try.
And I’m rather glad I did. Just to make clear, I’m only five episodes in, as I’m watching it on the BBC IPlayer, but I thought I’d flag it up before it disappears in a couple of weeks’ time. Because fans of classic mysteries should really check it out.
It comes across as undemanding fare. Mark Benton, a stalwart of playing lovable slobs on British TV, is playing a lovable slob/detective, and Jo Joyner, as Luella, proves more than a match for him. Worth mentioning at this point, though, is Patrick Walshe McBride, who plays Sebastian, stealing every single scene he’s in. Comic support in light-hearted fare like this is tricky to get right, but the writers and his performance are perfect.
But as it’s a detective show – and this is a mystery blog – what about the mysteries? Well, they’re pretty clever. As I said, I’ve watched the first five episodes so far, and they’re much cleverer than I expected them to be. While you could argue that the clueing is pretty last minute, the stories feel fresh and so far, the murderer hasn’t been obvious in any of them, and one episode, the third one is particularly clever – a tale of a man who approaches Frank and Luella because he has been visited by two thugs who tell him that he has exactly twenty-four hours before he dies.
A pedant has to ask how a perpetually broke detective company can afford an office in such an exclusive and old location in the centre of Stratford, but that’s not something to worry about. Fans of Father Brown (the TV series, not the books, which shares a number of writers with this show) and Death In Paradise really ought to check this show out. Definitely Worth A Look.
Just a thought…