Being a huge fan of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series of crime novels I was delighted to hear today Rankin’s announcement that Eleventh Hour Films have bought the TV rights. The books will be adapted by fellow Scot Gregory Burke and the adaptations are likely to be longer format, given Rankin’s previous comments, than the previous series starring John Hannah and Ken Stott.
Burke says: “It is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to work on adapting an iconic character like John Rebus for television. As someone who has grown up and lives in South East Scotland, Ian Rankin’s best-selling books provide the perfect material to make a thrilling series about crime in the modern world.”
Ian Rankin adds: “I’m so thrilled and honoured that Gregory Burke is bringing his outstanding storytelling talent to Rebus. As far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect match, allowing the character of John Rebus to emerge in all his complex three-dimensional glory.”
This is great news to celebrate during the 30th anniversary of Rankin’s debut Rebus novel Knots & Crosses.
Prime Suspect: The Final Act (TV) (2006; UK/USA; Colour; 182m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Philip Martin; w. Frank Deasy; ph. Julian Court; m. Nicholas Hooper. Cast: Helen Mirren, Stephen Tompkinson, Laura Greenwood, Eve Best, Gary Lewis, Katy Murphy, Frank Finlay, Tom Bell, Robert Pugh, Brendan Coyle, Robbie Gee, Russell Mabey. Approaching retirement, Jane Tennison investigates the murder of a missing girl. But the cracks soon begin to show as Jane struggles with an alcohol problem and the death of her father. Final installment in the series is a relentlessly downbeat affair. Mirren delivers a superb performance and the production values are excellent and authentic. There is the occasional contrivance and the finale seems rushed after over three hours of twists and turns. But this is still an absorbing last hurrah for one of TV’s great detectives. 
Prime Suspect: The Last Witness (TV) (2003; UK/USA; Colour; 195m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Tom Hooper; w. Peter Berry; ph. Larry Smith; m. Rob Lane. Cast: Helen Mirren, Liam Cunningham, Oleg Menshikov, Ben Miles, Robert Pugh, Mark Strong, Velibor Topic, Barnaby Kay, Tanya Moodie, Rad Lazar, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Olegar Fedoro, Sam Hazeldine, Frank Finlay. Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison’s investigation of the murder of a Bosnian refugee leads her to one, or possibly two, Serbian war criminals determined to silence the last witness to a massacre a decade before. Political intrigue rather than murder mystery is the theme for this installment. The subtext of war crimes committed in Bosnia adds an emotional layer. Mirren continues her excellent run with this character. The camera work is a little too flashy at times, but cannot detract from another absorbing tale. 
DIE LAST by TONY PARSONS (2017. Century, 406pp) ∗∗∗
Blurb: 12 DEAD GIRLS As dawn breaks on a snowy February morning, a refrigerated lorry is found parked in the heart of London’s Chinatown. Inside, twelve women, apparently illegal immigrants, are dead from hypothermia. 13 PASSPORTS But in the cab of the abandoned death truck, DC Max Wolfe of West End Central finds thirteen passports. WHERE IS SHE? The hunt for the missing woman will take Max Wolfe into the dark heart of the world of human smuggling, mass migration and 21st-century slave markets, as he is forced to ask the question that haunts our time. What would you do for a home?
Having really enjoyed The Hanging Club I delved straight into Parsons’ new novel, the fourth in his DC Max Wolfe series. The plot deals with the trafficking of humans from Eastern Europe and again brings Wolfe into confrontation with former London gangster Paul Warboys and his family. The book moves along at a fair lick and there are shocks and twists along the way. But this is less successful than the previous book as some of the police tactics seem questionable at best and reckless at worst. Untrained detectives going undercover into dangerous situation may make for thrilling sequences, but leave the reader questioning the authenticity of it all. There are attempts to add further depth to the lead characters through varying domestic crises, which helps give the story a more rounded feel and the reader characters to root for. The detectives though seem too keen to add their moral stance to every twist and turn of the plot. Overall, whilst not as satisfying as the previous book , this is again a fast, pacy read and never less than entertaining despite its flaws.
Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness (TV) (1995; UK/USA; Colour; 105m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Brian Park; d. Paul Marcus; w. Guy Hibbert; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Christopher Fulford, John Benfield, Richard Hawley, Stuart Wilson, Tim Woodward, Stephen Boxer, Stafford Gordon, Joyce Redman, Pip Donaghy, Marc Warren. A series of brutal sex murders disturbingly similar to the pattern of Superintendent Jane Tennison’s first major case leads to the awful suggestion that she may have caught the wrong man the first time. This installment focuses on Tennison’s reaction to the doubts raised and Mirren is excellent as ever as her character descends into paranoia and increasing alcohol dependency as she tries to prove her initial judgement was correct. The wrap up is a little too neat and swift after the investigation takes one wrong turn after another once Tennison is suspended. Otherwise, this is a solid mystery and a nice conclusion to the three movies that made up the fourth series of this consistent cop drama. 
Prime Suspect: Inner Circles (TV) (1995; UK/USA; Colour; 102m) ∗∗∗ pr. Paul Marcus; d. Sarah Pia Anderson; w. Eric Deacon, Meredith Oakes; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Jill Baker, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Craig, Richard Hawley, John Benfield, Phillada Sewell, James Laurenson, Thomas Russell, Jonathan Copestake, Anthony Bate, Ralph Arliss, Nick Patrick. Tennison, on loan to another jurisdiction, is sent in to investigate a murder of a country club manager. At first glance, it looks like a fairly obvious sex murder, but the facts suggest otherwise. As Tennison investigates, she uncovers a link to the ongoing situations within the local municipal government, and uncovers a possible political scandal which proves to be much larger and darker than she anticipated. More conventional mystery with familiar sub-plots of corruption and internal politics added to the mix. Whilst the mystery is satisfactorily played out the script feels a little generic and therefore the production lacks the edge of earlier stories in the series. Mirren remains superb though. 
Prime Suspect: The Lost Child (TV) (1995; UK/USA, Colour, 101m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Paul Marcus; d. John Madden; w. Paul Billing; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Beatie Edney, Robert Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Tracy Keating, Richard Hawley, Jack Ellis, David Phelan, Stuart Wilson, John Benfield, Tony Rohr, Mark Bazeley, Chris Brailsford. Supt. Tennison orchestrates a search for an abducted baby, but events take a turn for the worst when personal emotions cause complications. Emotive and dark episode due to its themes of child abduction and paedophilia. Again, the performances are uniformly excellent – notably Glenister as the prime suspect in question. Mirren continues to give a commanding portrayal of her career detective. The hostage resolution is tense and well-staged. Only some heavy-handed posturing in the script detracts from an otherwise excellent mystery drama. 
Prime Suspect 3 (1993; UK; Colour; 207m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Paul Marcus; d. David Drury; w. Lynda La Plante; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Tom Bell, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi, Struan Rodger, Mark Strong, Terrence Hardiman, Andrew Woodall, Richard Hawley, Philip Wright, Mark Drewry, John Benfield, Terence Harvey, Ciarán Hinds, Kelly Hunter. Assigned to a Vice squad, Detective Jane Tennison investigates a child murder and discovers a sinister link to the police. Another intricately plotted crime drama in this quality series. It lacks the intensity of the first two stories, but the controversial subject matter and political manoevering helped by excellent performances all round make for another well-made mystery. 
Prime Suspect 2 (TV) (1992; UK; Colour; 203m) ∗∗∗∗ pr. Paul Marcus; d. John Strickland; w. Allan Cubitt; ph. Ken Morgan, David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Colin Salmon, John Benfield, Jack Ellis, Craig Fairbrass, George Harris, Richard Hawley, Philip Wright, Ian Fitzgibbon, Andrew Tiernan, Lloyd McGuire, Stephen Boxer, Fraser James, Jenny Jules, Matt Bardock. When a body is found in the backyard of a home in an Afro-Caribbean neighborhood of London, DCI Jane Tennison (Mirren) has to tread carefully in her investigation because of the racial tension surrounding unsolved crimes in the region. This first sequel is another intense tale, although marginally less successful than the original – mainly down to occasional heavy-handed treatment of the racial politics and a more straight-forward mystery plot. There is also a dose of internal politics to add spice to the pot. Mirren is again excellent and the support cast of cops, victims and suspects is strong and authentic. Another fine axample of TV crime drama at its best. 
THE HANGING CLUB by TONY PARSONS (2016, Arrow, 374pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: A band of vigilante executioners roam London’s hot summer nights, abducting evil men and hanging them by the neck until dead. As the bodies pile up and riots explode across the sweltering city, DC Max Wolfe hunts a gang of killers who many believe to be heroes.
This is the third book in Tony Parsons’ DC Max Wolfe series and it is a tight, efficient crime thriller. The themes of the injustice of the legal system and revenge are manipulated by Parsons to evoke maximum engagement and emotion from the reader. This he does well for the most part before settling into more familiar genre conventions in the final part. Wolfe is a character wresling with his conscience as he balances the needs of his job and the constraints of the law with his desire to see that justice is done. The ambiguities lead him to make wrong decisions and put his career – and his life – at risk. Written in the first person, we get inside Wolfe’s head as he unravels the knots of the mystery of the vigilante group. Whilst there is nothing particularly new here, the quality of the writing is more than strong enough to make this a book you won’t be able to put down.