Daily Archives: April 26, 2011

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Murder at Road Hill House

I’m a fan of crime novels, but less so of books about true crime. I prefer my mysteries fictional, ideally featuring kick-ass women, lots of witty dialogue and a plot that gets wrapped-up neatly at the end. Real life is so miserably lacking in tidy resolutions. So when lots of friends recommended I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale a few years ago, I was reluctant. It features the true story of the brutal murder of a young child in 1860. Far too distressing. But, my friends explained, the way it’s written, you’re distanced from the child. It’s more an unravelling of a country house murder, with added dollops of sordidness.

The book is about the investigation by Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher into the circumstances leading up to the death of four-year old Saville Kent at the home of the well-to-do Kent family, Road Hill House. The nursemaid had woken to discover that her charge, who shared her room, had gone missing in the night. A frantic search uncovered the murdered body of the child in the outside toilet. Local police proved entirely inadequate to the task of investigating, and so the cool, calm and super-smart detective, Jack Whicher (upon which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins are said to have based their famous detectives), is sent down to crack the case. What he discovers is a household riddled with dysfunction and dark, bitter secrets of sex, madness, cruelty and jealousy. And this is what makes the book, and now the ITV drama, so gripping.

The story has been handled superbly. With ITV, you have the irksome business of ad breaks to factor in, the inanity of which can wreck any tension that’s been building up. But even so, I can highly recommend this dramatisation. It’s always a good sign when you know the outcome of a story, yet you still feel gripped as it unfolds. In this case, it is aided by a magnificent performance by the cast, with particular credit to Paddy Considine as Whicher, the ever compelling Peter Capaldi as father, Samuel Kent, and Alexandra Roach as his daughter, Constance.

If you missed it, you can catch it on ITV Player.

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Coronation Street: Easter, Weatherfield-style

It was all happening in Coronation Street over Easter, wasn’t it? John Stape had a bigger meltdown than an Easter egg in a microwave; there was possibly the gayest episode of a British soap ever; and Eddie Windass packed his piping bags and headed to Germany.

John Stape should really not have stopped taking his medication. “You shouldn’t have taken him off his medication!” Fiz yelled at Boyish Dr Whatsit as they hurried off to find John, who’d barricaded himself in the back room of the bookies’ because he thought the police were after him. “I didn’t tell him to stop his medication!” protested Boyish Dr Whatsit. “Oh,” said Fiz. Meanwhile, John had popped home, gathered up his Colin Fishwick Bank of Weatherfield debit card, and wandered off again.

He had something to do, he told Fiz, via the medium of mobile phone. That thing was to take a load of money round to the parents of Creepy Charlotte, to make amends for having  helped kill her with a hammer (he didn’t tell Fiz that bit). The Charlotte Seniors arrived home to find an agitated “Colin” feeding £20 notes through their letterbox. It was clearly time to put the kettle on and have a few custard creams.    Continue reading

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Fags, Mags and Bags: OMG!

Photo from the BBC

I was hanging up the washing, as you do, or maybe you don’t, in which case give me a ring and I’ll do it for you, I love hanging washing, you can keep your hoovering but give me a basket full of wet linen and a sunny day and I couldn’t be happier. I had a couple of pegs in my mouth as the Radio 4 announcer said, ‘And now comedy with Fags, Mags and Bags,’ and I thought, oh lordie, another Radio 4 alleged comedy with a terrible title. But I’ll go to the foot of my stairs if in just a few moments I hadn’t spat the pegs onto the patio because I was laughing, properly laughing at the sharp witty writing, the cracking use of language and the Wall of Crisps. The episode centered around the shopkeeper trying to invent a new sweetie, and I don’t think I’d be over-stating if I said it was the funniest thing I’d heard on radio since Graeme Garden sang Kung Fu Fighting to the tune of Greensleeves.

I was riveted, I tell you, riveted for the whole half hour and as soon as it was over I rushed to my trusty steed Google thinking, I must tell the world about this tiny unknown programme, only to discover I’d arrived rather late to the party. I mean all wine gone even the Romanian stuff only dust in the twiglets bowl late. It was series four I’d stumbled upon and it turns out Fags, Mags and Bags has deservedly won awards and a cult following. Still, I never mind jumping onto a bandwagon, long as someone in the back has a flask of tea, and at least I have proved you can join in at any time.

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Game of Thrones: Every child should have a wolf

(Ep.2/10) After last week’s stunning series opener, this week it was time for the plot to thicken and characters to deepen. The Starks, Baratheons and Lannisters, assembled at Winterfell, dispersed in the aftermath of Bran’s “accident.” Ned Stark and daughters Arya and Sansa went south with the king and his entourage, for Ned to take up his post as the King’s Hand. Catelynn stayed behind to look after the still-unconscious Bran, accompanied by youngest son Rickon and oldest son Robb (because “there must always be a [male, conscious, adult] Stark at Winterfell”).

Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow headed north to the Wall, with Tyrion Lannister for company. Tyrion had fancied seeing the Wall, the massive structure of rock and ice that keeps the wilderness at bay. That’s what Tyrion does – he collects information. As he explained to Jon, since his body is less than useful, he has to keep his mind razor-sharp. Peter Dinklage is perfect as Tyrion, conveying the sense of a mind always at work and always one step ahead. He’s witty, smart, confident and even sexy.

No sooner had they all gone than an assassin turned up in Bran’s room, presumably sent by the Lannisters to finish off the job that Jaime had started by pushing Bran out of the window. Luckily Bran was being well-guarded by both his mother and his direwolf and was saved. Catelynn has now decided she must go to Ned and tell him that someone tried to kill his son. You can’t trust the raven delivery system with that kind of message.    Continue reading

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