TV Movie Review – McCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (1971)

McCloud : Encounter with Aries (1971) - Russ Mayberry | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovieMcCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (TV) (1971, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Network: NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY (NBC) (USA); production company: UNIVERSAL TELEVISION; director: RUSS MAYBERRY; writer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; producer: DEAN HARGROVE; associate producer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; director of photography: WILLIAM MARGULIES (Technicolor | 35mm | Spherical | 1.37:1); music: DICK DEBENEDICTIS; film editor: BYRON ‘BUZZ’ BRANDT; art director: WILLIAM H. TUNTKE; set decorator: JOSEPH J. STONE; costumes: GRADY HUNT; sound: EDWIN S. HALL (Mono); broadcast date: 22 SEPTEMBER 1971 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; running time: 76 MINS.
Cast: DENNIS WEAVER (Sam McCloud), J.D. CANNON (Peter B. Clifford), SEBASTIAN CABOT (Sidney Cantrell), PETER HASKELL (Richard Stevens), SUSAN STRASBERG (Lorraine), LOUISE LATHAM (Emily Cantrell), ALAN OPPENHEIMER (Mervin Simmons), TERRY CARTER (Det. Joe Broadhurst), ROBERT HOGAN (Detective Finnegan), JILL JARESS (Gloria), BOOTH COLMAN (Hines), WOODROW PARFREY (Elmer), ELISHA COOK JR. (Mr. Rafer), FORREST LEWIS (Old Man), FRED HOLLIDAY (Intern), ELIZABETH LANE (Nurse), ATHENA LORDE (Floor Nurse), NANCY JERIS (Marie), JAMES GAVIN (Policeman).
The kidnapping of a woman (Latham) who is married to a wealthy astrologer (Cabot) — and the appearance of her kidnapper (Haskell), who claims she is being held in a room with a ticking time bomb — spur the woman’s husband to bash in the kidnapper’s head with a vase. This leaves McCloud (Weaver) with a limited time to determine where the woman is and who is really behind the kidnapping. This was the first episode following the transition of McCloud from its one-hour slot as part of the Four-in-One wheel to a regular rotation as part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. The story is a strong one with elements of mystery and humour. By now the role of McCloud fits the charming Weaver as well as his cowboy boots and his sparring with Cannon is always a joy to watch. A good script by Fields, tight direction from Mayberry and the casting of Cabot as the astrologer also help make this an above average mystery movie.

TV Movie Review – COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (1973)

Adrian CarsiniCOLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).

Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.

Book Review – A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES (2020) by Ian Rankin

A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES (2020) ****
by Ian Rankin
First published by Orion 2020, 325pp
ISBN: 978-1-4091-7697-8
© John Rebus, Ltd., 2020
    Blurb: When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective? As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…
      Comment: As has become common-place with the Rebus-in-retirement books, Rankin juggles two separate cases, in which there is hinted a connection. The first involves Rebus trying to clear his daughter’s name when her husband is found murdered, the second sees Siobhan Clark and Malcolm Fox investigating the murder of a socialite in Edinburgh. The connection is a land deal proposed for a golfing holiday site near the north west coastal village where Rebus’s daughter Samantha lives with her own young daughter. A number of other elements are woven into the story. Rebus has moved to a ground floor flat due to his respiratory condition; gangster Cafferty has a hold over the Assistant Chief Constable when he comes across photos of her husband in an affair. Cafferty is also dealing with the prospect of his empire coming to an end and the book closes with some uncertainty on this. The two central mysteries are played out in familiar fashion and offer nothing really new beyond the background of a  WWII POW camp that was being studied by Samantha’s husband. The real delight, as ever, is in the familiar characters and their interactions. Rebus is at his abrasive best as he tussles with the local police. Clark and Fox’s working relationship continues to be tainted by their mistrust of each other. Cafferty is portrayed as an increasingly lonely figure relying on his past reputation. The page count is relatively and refreshingly brief, leading to an efficiently told story. There is still more to be said in this series and I look forward greatly to see where Rankin takes his characters next.

The Rebus Series:
Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992) ***½
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996) ****
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999) ****
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001) ****
Resurrection Men (2002) ****
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½
A Song for the Dark Times (2020) ****

Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

The Jam Report | REVIEW – 'Murder on the Orient Express'MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017, USA/Malta) ***
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Genre Films / Kinberg Genre / The Mark Gordon Company / Scott Free Productions / Latina Pictures / The Estate of Agatha Christie; d. Kenneth Branagh; w. Michael Green (based on the novel by Agatha Christie); exec pr. Matthew Jenkins, Dillon Kivo, James Prichard, Aditya Sood, Hilary Strong; pr. Kenneth Branagh, Mark Gordon, Judy Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott; ass pr. William Moseley; ph. Haris Zambarloukos (Colour. 70 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (6.5K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision Super 70 (source format). 2.39:1); m. Patrick Doyle; ed. Mick Audsley; pd. Jim Clay; ad. Dominic Masters; set d. Rebecca Alleway, Caroline Smith; cos. Alexandra Byrne; m/up. Chiara Ugolini, Luca Saccuman; sd. James Mather (Dolby Atmos | DTS 70 mm (70 mm prints)); sfx. David Watkins; vfx. Helen Judd, Veronique Messier Lauzon, Josiane Fradette, Jacinthe Côté, Mary Meng, Tim Pounds-Cornish, Peter Hume, Patrick Ledda, George Murphy, Sylvain Theroux, Vincent Poitras, Mathieu Raynault; st. James O’Donnell; rel. 3 November 2017 (UK), 10 November 2017 (USA); cert: 12; r/t. 114m.

cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham), Tom Bateman (Bouc), Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman), Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi), Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez), Gerard Horan (Aynesworth), Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi), Phil Dunster (Colonel John Armstrong), Miranda Raison (Sonia Armstrong), Hayat Kamille (Susanne), Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel).

Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast in this mystery based on the best-selling novel by Agatha Christie. Everyone’s a suspect when a murder is committed on a lavish train ride, and a brilliant detective must race against time to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again. This is the second big screen adaptation of Christie’s celebrated, but heavily manufactured mystery. Branagh dons a bewilderingly large moustache but manages to capture the essence of the Belgian detective. However, in the director’s seat, he falls short of adding the required slow burn tension and instead focuses on the visuals, which are heavily digitised giving the scenery the look of a painting. He also embellishes the story with a couple of action sequences that do not serve the plot and merely seem designed to change the pace and fill the Hollywood quota. That said the basic story is adhered to and even though a tendency toward melodrama often creeps in, there is enough here to hold the interest, if not to match Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation. Also previously filmed for TV in 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Film Review – MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019)

Motherless Brooklyn | FlixsterMOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019, USA) ****
Mystery, Drama, Crime
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. Class 5 Films / MWM Studios / Warner Bros. Pictures; d. Edward Norton; w. Edward Norton (based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem); exec pr. Adrian Alperovich, Sue Kroll, Daniel Nadler, Brian Niranjan Sheth, Robert F. Smith; pr. Michael Bederman, Bill Migliore, Daniel Nadler, Edward Norton, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane, Robert F. Smith; ass pr. Silvana Tropea; ph. Dick Pope (Colour. D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format). 1.85:1); m. Daniel Pemberton; m sup. Linda Cohen; ed. Joe Klotz; pd. Beth Mickle; ad. Michael Ahern; set d. Kara Zeigon; cos. Amy Roth; m/up. Louise McCarthy, Joanna McCarthy, Kerrie Smith, John Quaglia, Sincere Gilles; sd. Paul Hsu (Dolby Digital); sfx. Jimmy Hays; vfx. Matthew Fernandez, Steven Weigle, Rebecca Dunn, Artur Elson, Vance Miller, Mark Russell, Eran Dinur, David Lebensfeld, Grant Miller, Osvaldo Andreaus, John Bair, Stevie Ramone, Luke DiTommaso; st. Stephen A. Pope; rel. 30 August 2019 (USA), 6 December 2019 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 144m.

cast: Edward Norton (Lionel Essrog), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Laura Rose), Alec Baldwin (Moses Randolph), Willem Dafoe (Paul Randolph), Bruce Willis (Frank Minna), Ethan Suplee (Gilbert Coney), Cherry Jones (Gabby Horowitz), Bobby Cannavale (Tony Vermonte), Dallas Roberts (Danny Fantl), Josh Pais (William Lieberman), Radu Spinghel (Giant Man), Fisher Stevens (Lou), Peter Gray Lewis (Mayor), Robert Wisdom (Billy Rose), Michael Kenneth Williams (Trumpet Man), Isaiah J. Thompson (King Rooster Piano Player), Russell Hall (King Rooster Bassist), Joe Farnsworth (King Rooster Drummer), Jerry Weldon (King Rooster Saxophonist), Eric Berryman (King Rooster Bartender).

Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, the story follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, as he ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honour his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation. Norton has delivered a movie from a bygone era with this noir-ish tale of murder and corruption. Norton himself is excellent as the afflicted detective, whilst a strong support cast includes Baldwin as the corrupt planning official and Dafoe as his embittered and estranged brother. The plot unfolds in traditional fashion and is laced with a wry sense of humour. Good creation of period setting is achieved through visual digital effects work, costume design, a brooding score and set dressing. It is a delight to see a film of this type that doesn’t feel the need to add Hollywood-style embellishments. It’s great entertainment, if a trifle overlong.

Film Review – CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973)

Cannon (1971)CANNON: HE WHO DIGS A GRAVE (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM); d. Richard Donner; w. Stephen Kandel (based on the novel “He Who Digs a Grave” by David Delman); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Adrian Samish; ph. Jack Swain (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); th m. John Carl Parker; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Ray Daniels, Jerry Young; ad. Bill Kenney; set d. Frank Lombardo; rel. 12 September 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 100m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), Anne Baxter (Mayor Helen Blyth), Barry Sullivan (Sheriff Jesse Luke), David Janssen (Ian Kirk), Murray Hamilton (Arthur Gibson), Tim O’Connor (Martin Ross), Louise Troy (Louise Gibson), Lee Purcell (Marion Luke), Martine Bartlett (Hanna Freel), Royal Dano (Doctor), Robert Hogan (Deputy Coleman), R.G. Armstrong (Banner), Dabbs Greer (Windom Salter), Jerry Ayres (Deputy Reber), Lenore Kasdorf (Sherry Benson), Cathy Lee Crosby (Irene Kirk), Dennis Rucker (Wade Gibson), Virginia Gregg (Dr. Emma Savonka), Bill Quinn (Ben Salter).

Cannon  (Conrad) travels to the quiet, remote town of Mercer, California to help his friend Ian Kirk (Janssen, in a rare late career guest slot) who is suspected of murdering his rich wife (Crosby) and her paramour Wade Gibson (Rucker). As Cannon tries to prove his friend’s innocence, he gets help from the mayor (Baxter) but is stymied in his efforts by the sheriff (Sullivan)’s office. Several other viable suspects present themselves, people who had reason to hate Wade, including his stepfather (Hamilton) and the sheriff’s daughter (Purcell). This feature-length opener to season three of the popular TV series is a more complex mystery than the standard TV fare, reflecting its literary roots (it was based on a novel by David Delman). There is a great role for Baxter as the small town’s mayor who seems to be the only one in turn willing to give Conrad a fair crack of the whip. The action scenes are well-mounted, and Donner works the script well, but the camera work is largely unimaginative, lacking the hand-held realism of the pilot film. Nevertheless, the strong cast and script make this an enjoyable episode. Shot on location in Grass Valley, northern California.

Film Review – THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972)

The Streets of San Francisco: The Pilot | Not The Baseball PitcherTHE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM) / Warner Bros. Television; d. Walter Grauman; w. Edward Hume (based on the novel “Poor, Poor Ophelia” by Carolyn Weston); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. William W. Spencer (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Patrick Williams; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Richard K. Brockway; ad. Richard Y. Haman; set d. Hoyle Barrett; cos. Edward McDermott, Paula Giokaris; m/up. Don Schoenfeld, Annabell Levy; sd. Ray Barons, Bill Phillips (Mono); rel. 16 September 1972 (USA), 19 November 1973 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Karl Malden (Detective Lt. Mike Stone), Robert Wagner (David J. Farr), Michael Douglas (Inspector Steve Keller), Andrew Duggan (Capt. A.R. Malone), Tom Bosley (Saretti), John Rubinstein (Lindy), Carmen Mathews (Sally Caswell), Edward Andrews (Joe Caswell), Lawrence Dobkin (Gregory Praxas), Kim Darby (Holly Jean Berry), Brad David (Del Berry), Mako (Kenji), Naomi Stevens (Mrs. Saretti), Lou Frizzell (Lou), Bill Quinn (Medical Examiner), Richard Brian Harris (Auto Mechanic), William Swan (Larry Pyle), Victor Millan (Tony – Detective), June Vincent (Diana), Robert Mandan (Dockmaster).

SFPD Detective Lieutenant Michael Stone (Malden) is partnered with a young college-educated Inspector, Steven Keller (Douglas), as they investigate a girl found dead in the water with a lawyer (Wagner) she knew as the primary suspect. Introductory film for the TV series that ran for five seasons from 1972-7. The film benefits from extensive location work and the instant chemistry between leads Malden and Douglas. The mystery is adapted from a novel by Carolyn Weston, which featured different lead characters. Wagner is the chief suspect as the slimy lawyer who became involved with the dead girl (played in flashback by Darby). Dobkin also gives a notable performance as an eccentric former movie star. The material is handled a little flatly by Graumann but is tightly edited and contains a memorable theme from composer Williams. Followed twenty years later by BACK TO THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (1992).

Film Review – CANNON (TV) (1971)

Cannon: Season One, Volume One : DVD Talk Review of the DVD VideoCANNON (TV) (1971, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Mystery, Drama
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions / Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); d. George McCowan; w. Edward Hume; exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. John A. Alonzo (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; ed. Jerry Young; ad. Philip Barber; set d. Ray Molyneaux; cos. Dorothy H. Rodgers, Eric Seelig; m/up. Richard Cobos, Gloria Montemayor; sd. Robert J. Miller (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); rel. 26 March 1971 (USA), 21 October 1972 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: William Conrad (Frank Cannon), J.D. Cannon (Lt. Kelly Redfield), Lynda Day George (Christie Redfield), Murray Hamilton (Virgil Holley), Earl Holliman (Magruder), Vera Miles (Diana Langston), Barry Sullivan (Calhoun), Keenan Wynn (Eddie), Lynne Marta (Trudy Hewett), Norman Alden (Mitchell), Ellen Corby (Teacher), John Fiedler (Jake), Lawrence Pressman (Herb Mayer), Ross Hagen (Red Dunleavy), Robert Sorrells (Tough in Blue Moon bar), Pamela Dunlap (Laverne Holley), Jimmy Lydon (Betting Clerk), William Joyce (Ken Langston), Wayne McLaren (Jackie / T.J.).

William Conrad stars as portly private detective Frank Cannon who investigates the murder of his ex-girlfriend (Miles)’s husband and gets entangled in small-town corruption. This is the pilot for the long-running series, which ran for five seasons from 1972-76. The story may be a standard mystery, but Conrad’s colourful performance and a strong guest cast make it an enjoyable movie. McCowan directs with some flair and adds a gritty realism through his frequent use of hand-held camera. A reunion movie THE RETURN OF FRANK CANNON (1980) appeared later.

TV Review – STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020)

What is Strike: Lethal White on BBC One tonight and how many episodes are  there?STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020, UK) ***½
Crime, Drama. Mystery
net. British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC); pr co. Bronte Film and TV; d. Susan Tully; w. Tom Edge (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)); exec pr. Neil Blair, Tommy Bulfin, Tom Edge, Ruth Kenley-Letts, J.K. Rowling; pr. Jackie Larkin; ph. Tomasz Naumiuk (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Adrian Johnston; m sup. Phil Canning; ed. Steve Singleton; pd. Alison Riva; ad. Abbie Bellwood; set d. Sophia Millar; cos. Henrietta Nieper; m/up. Caroline Greenough, Karen Scott; sd. John Rodda (Dolby Digital); st. Crispin Layfield; tr. 30 August – 13 September 2020; r/t. 4 x 60m.

cast: Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike), Holliday Grainger (Robin Ellacott), Kerr Logan (Matthew Cunliffe), Nick Blood (Jimmy Knight), Robert Glenister (Jasper Chiswell), Joseph Quinn (Billy Knight), Sophie Winkleman (Kinvara Chiswell), Christina Cole (Izzy Chiswell), Adam Long (Raff Chiswell), Natalie Gumede (Lorelei Bevan), Saffron Coomber (Flick Purdue), Danny Ashok (Aamir Malik), Robert Pugh (Geraint Ifon Winn), Jack Greenlees (Sam Barclay), Natasha O’Keeffe (Charlotte Campbell), Ann Akin (Vanessa Ekwensi), Anna Cannings (Della Winn), Robyn Holdaway (Hayley), Kathleen Cranham (Shanice), Bronagh Waugh (Dawn Clancy), Silas Carson (Henry Drummond), Sophie Colquhoun (Sarah Shadlock), Suzanne Burden (Linda Ellacott), Paul Butterworth (Michael Ellacott), Joe Johnsey (Martin Ellacott), Nicholas Agnew (Tom Turvey), Judi Kenley (Robin’s Aunt), Suzanne Toase (Denise), James Mellish (Freddie), Jamie Ankrah (Alfie), Joel Gillman (Digby), Ruth Lass (Dr. Elspeth Curtis-Lacey), Jacqueline Boatswain (Claire Morbury), Julie Morgan Price (Georgina).

Cormoran Strike (Burke) and Robin Ellacott (Grainger) are back, and at odds following Robin’s wedding to Matthew (Logan). But there is no time to mull on the new distance within their professional relationship, as a frightening visit from a potential client puts a new case on the table – and Robin and Strike set to work looking into reports of a strangled child. With the detective agency thriving, the duo is also recruited to investigate the blackmail of a Government Minister (Glenister) and Robin is tasked with going undercover in the House of Commons. Rowling’s fourth hefty Cormoran Strike novel (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) is faithfully adapted in this long and complex mystery. Technical credits are top class and the performances of the cast are uniformly excellent. Burke and Grainger have established a great rapport as the lead detectives. This is ultimately a well-written and traditional mystery thriller with continuing personal arcs from earlier stories, which casual viewers may find difficult to follow. However, fans of the books and demanding mysteries will not be disappointed.

Book Review – WRONG LIGHT (2018) by Matt Coyle

WRONG LIGHT (2018) ***½
by Matt Coyle
This paperback edition published by Oceanview Publishing, 2018, 338pp
© Matt Coyle, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-60809-329-8

Blurb: Naomi Hendrix’s sexy voice hovering over the radio waves isn’t the only thing haunting the Southern California nights. A demented soul is stalking Naomi, hiding in the shadows of the night, waiting for the right moment to snatch her and fulfill a twisted fantasy. When Naomi’s radio station hires PI Rick Cahill to protect Naomi and track down the stalker, he discovers that Naomi is hiding secrets about her past that could help unmask the man. However, before Rick can extract the truth from Naomi, he is thrust into a missing person’s case–an abduction he may have unwittingly caused. The investigating detective questions Rick’s motives for getting involved and pressures him to stop meddling. While Rick pursues Naomi’s stalker and battles the police, evil ricochets from his own past and embroils Rick in a race to find the truth about an old nemesis. Is settling the score worth losing everything?

Comment:  This is the fifth book in Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series, but it is the first that I have read. It is a dark noir-ish novel which gives Private detective Cahill two unconnected cases to juggle – an unusual, but not unique, approach in a first-person PI novel. Coyle actually juggles the two stories pretty well, blending the action and key characters without confusing the reader. The primary case, concerning a female DJ being stalked is the more traditional, whilst the secondary case – involving the Russian Mafia and a hold they have over Cahill – refers back to events from previous books and readers would perhaps benefit in approaching this series from the beginning. That said, there is enough background provided to ensure you can also approach the book as a standalone. Cahill is a flawed hero and his manipulation of the few friends he has leaves him as something of a loner. The novel moves at a cracking pace and remains engaging throughout with many twists and turns – some that can be foreseen others that shock. As such the book challenges the reader at every turn. This can be both a positive and a negative in that it feels at times that Coyle is trying to be too clever and by doing so the reader can occasionally anticipate his next twist because they know not to take things at face value. The two plots run at different paces. The stalker plot line is almost text book mystery right up until its shocking conclusion. The Russian Mafia subsidiary plot line mixes the mystery element of the nature of the Russian Mob’s operation, in which they embroil Cahill, with action thriller elements of many a big screen crime thriller. Taken separately both would make for a very readable book. Blended together they at times make for an overly frenetic narrative that stretches credulity – not in the nature of the situations but in the way in which the police and FBI deal with them and Cahill seemingly can operate for days without much sleep. All said and done, I really enjoyed the book despite its over-ambition and look forward to seeing where Coyle takes Cahill next.