When this series began a few weeks ago, some Liverpool fans got themselves all excited – they thought Channel 5 was devoting a six-part series to their former player and manager Kenny Dalglish, the king of the Kop.
That’s before they realised the spelling wasn’t quite right…
But no, it was crime drama fans across the nation who had every reason to celebrate instead because it was, in fact, an adaptation of three PD James novels, being shown in two parts each across Thursday and Friday evenings.
What’s more, rather than updating the tales or even faffing around too much with the plots, they were being set in the 1970s.
Of course, the character of Commander Adam Dalgliesh is no stranger to the small screen, having been previously depicted by Roy Marsden in the 1980s and 1990s, and later by Martin Shaw when the BBC took over the rights from ITV.
This time he’s played by Bertie Carvel, who perhaps fits James’ description of Dalgliesh as being ‘tall, dark and handsome’ better than his predecessors (no disrespect intended).
For the uninitiated, the detective is the son of a Norfolk vicar but has had a tragic past – his wife died while in childbirth, 13 years before the first novel, A Mind to Murder, was set; he’s been reluctant to commit himself to another relationship since then, although he isn’t completely against female company.
Dalgliesh is based at New Scotland Yard and in his spare time writes poetry, several volumes of which have been published, to the amusement of his colleagues. Cerebral and private, he goes about his business in a methodical yet compelling manner.
Carvel should be no stranger to viewers thanks to his roles in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell and Doctor Foster, and will soon be seen as Tony Blair in the fifth series of The Crown. But those projects have him as part of a larger ensemble cast; in Dalgliesh he’s the main focus and has, so far, proved to be a hugely watchable leading man.
Although the run ends this week, Channel 5, which has co-produced the series with, among others, subscription service Acorn TV, plans more episodes, with the story eventually being brought into the 21st century.
Following adaptations of James’ novels Shroud for a Nightingale and The Black Tower, Dalgliesh’s final case of the series is based on A Taste for Death, which was Booker Prize-nominated following its publication in 1986. However, the tale takes place in May 1975 and begins in gruesome fashion when eight-year-old Darren and churchwarden Miss Wharton stumble upon the bodies of vagrant Harry Mack and Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Tory MP, in the vestry of St Matthew’s Church in Paddington.
Both men have had their throats slashed, and Dalgliesh starts his investigation by trying to find out more about both victims’ movements on the night of their death. After speaking to members of Sir Paul’s household, he comes up with a possible suspect – but we’ll have to wait until Friday’s concluding episode to discover whether or not he’s right.
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