STRIKE: TROUBLED BLOOD
I was looking forward to this new Strike because while I’ve enjoyed the previous outings, Troubled Blood is the first where I’ve not read the source material. Mind you, my memory is so dreadful that if I leave a long enough gap between reading and viewing it rarely affects my enjoyment of a plot.
The award-winning series of novels by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling, has produced that rare thing – TV adaptations that are as good as the (very good) books.
Our hero is the likeable-yet-troubled private detective Cormoran Strike (played by the ever watchable and turbo-brooding Tom Burke), who lost half his right leg while serving in Afghanistan, is the estranged son of a rock star, and is in a will-they-won’t-they relationship with his partner-in-crimes Robin (the equally watchable and easy-on-the-eye Holliday Grainger, who joins Burke on set).
Cormoran Strike is played by the ever watchable and turbo-brooding Tom Burke in the new drama, Strike: Troubled Blood
For this outing the bar was set even higher than usual because Troubled Blood won Crime And Thriller Book of the Year at the 2021 British Book Awards.
At the same time, it had negative reviews that accused Rowling of transphobia, largely on the grounds that the (not-obviously-trans) serial killer character Dennis Creed (played by the excellent Kenneth Cranham) disguised himself as a woman while on his murderous sprees.
These alleged ‘pernicious antitrans tropes’ (as one critic had it) will be lost on those of us who believe the uncancellable JK Rowling to be one of the still, calm voices of common sense during the ongoing gender/culture war flameout.
Troubled Blood was a big, full-fat book in which the physical appearance of that one character is a footnote, albeit wearing kitten heels. Same with the TV adaptation – so if anyone’s tuning in looking for a primetime slice of transphobia they’ll be looking in the wrong direction.
Kathryn Flett (pictured) says it’s rare to find a TV adaptation that is as good as the books
After that Public Ser vice Announcement, let’s get back to the plot – and it’s a meaty one. For the first time Cormoran and Robin are persuaded to take on a ‘cold case’ by the daughter of Margot Bamborough, a GP who disappeared in 1973 while walking from her surgery in London’s Clerkenwell to meet a friend after work.
Cleverly explored through a combination of flashbacks and old Super 8 footage (beautifully directed by Sue Tully who, for those of us of a certain age, will forever remain Michelle from EastEnders), the tale encompasses real hot-button issues of the early 70s, with Margot’s emerging capital-F Feminism and views on abortion set against an evocative Krays-style background of London’s contemporary criminal underworld.
Meanwhile, in the longer term, Strike’s response to the death of his aunt, his prickly relationships with his siblings, his feelings for Robin and his testing relationship with alcohol are all unfolding as satisfyingly as you’d hope from an elegantly complex plot.
It’s rare to find adaptations that are as good as the book
Just one quibble: attempting to pass Clerkenwell off as a leafy suburb (as in the street where the ‘Clerkenwell’ care home is located) baffled this viewer; I spent the 1990s working in London EC1 and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been leafy since the 1500s.
Anyway, minor grumbles aside, while waiting for next week’s finale I’ll treat myself to the next Strike – in print. And come next Christmas I’m sure I won’t remember a thing!
The equally watchable and easy-on-the-eye Holliday Grainger (pictured) joins Burke on set as Robin
Nick Knowles is great on DIY SOS – warmly empathetic, bringing out the best in the subjects. However, Nick Knowles’ Big Railway Adventure (Friday, Ch5) reveals that when you take him away from a cul-de-sac full of chaps wearing hi-vis, he’s lost.
Watching Knowles visiting manmade islands in Peru’s Lake Titicaca (‘it’s not bouncy or anything but it’s very squashy…’) or asking a local ‘Why do you live here?’ (answer, ‘Because it’s my life’) reveals him to be so far out of his comfort zone as an ‘Adventurer’ that during the ad breaks I prayed his DIY SOS sidekicks Billy, Jules and Gaby would turn up to help him refurbish Machu Picchu…
IT’S SLOW GOING IN OLD VIENNA
Deadly Communion: Max Liebermann (MATTHEW BEARD), Oskar Rheinhardt (JUERGEN MAURER) in Vienna Blood
Although this is the third series, I came cold to Vienna Blood, knowing nothing about it at all. However, once I had torn myself away from drinking in the budget-busting beauty – it’s set in fin-de-siècle Vienna, eat your heart out Bridgerton – the quirky premise of this UK/Austrian co-production (adapted from The Liebermann Papers by Frank Tallis) intrigued me.
You do have to give it time, as the show is in no rush to reveal its charms. This story starts with the murder of a seamstress at the fashion house of a female couturier and unfolds at an unfashionably (for 2022) slow pace.
On the upside, it gives us a chance to get to know our protagonists: the implausibly youthful psychiatrist Dr Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard, a perfectly grown-up 33 in real life) and his friend, police inspector Oskar Reinhardt (Jürgen Maurer, far right with Matthew).
The interiors, architecture and frocks are gorgeous, but the plot centres on a beautiful young woman being killed in the throes of sexual ecstasy by a lover wielding a hatpin – and even a creative murder weapon can’t compensate for the appearance of that cop-show cliché: lingering close-ups of lovely dead girls. Which, unfortunately, means I’ll look elsewhere for my criminal kicks in the future.
Walford did Dot proud…
June Brown who died in April, aged 95, played Eastender’s Dot Cotton. June didn’t want Dot to ‘die’ while she was alive
The magnificent June Brown died in April, aged 95, but EastEnders (BBC1) took its time organising a send-off worthy of her alter ego Dot Cotton. Apparently, June didn’t want Dot to ‘die’ while she was alive, trusting that when the time came Walford would do both her and Dot proud.
And it did, sending them off in style: plumed horses trotting round Albert Square, old friends and colleagues, not a dry eye in The Vic. June would’ve loved it.
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