Three children go to play in the woods near their homes. Only one comes out, covered in blood with no memory of what happened.
Twenty one years later, Rob Reilly (Killian Scott), a sharply dressed murder detective and his partner Cassie (Sarah Greene) are sent to investigate a murder in the same spot.
On an altar lies the body of a local teenage girl. Her body is found in the middle of an archaeological site, threatened by local developers aiming to build a shiny new motorway.
Nearby they find people caught between an old and new Ireland. The local estate close to Dublin isn’t seeing much trickle down from the “Celtic Tiger” booming Irish economy of the 1990s.
Hard bitten cops often bring hard bitten stereotypes along with them.
The new BBC cop show Dublin Murders has all the tropes of the genre and then some. The secret pasts, the torchlit discovery, the tape surrounding the grouchy forensics people in white overalls.
But this is more than Midsomer Murders with an Irish accent.
The series looks set to be more than the sum of its parts. And the Irish crew, cast and setting all mean an Ireland little seen on television is on show.
Screenwriter Sarah Phelps, who brought out the dark context to Agatha Christie adaptations, steers what could be a collection of cliches in a tense direction.
Phelps said, “I’m less interested in the murders than the lies people tell around them. That’s the thing that is about human nature, motives, character, desires and all the things that make people behave in an unconscionable way.”
The series is based on the Dublin Murder Squad of novels by Tara French. Each novel has a different Dublin cop as the protagonist. In the eight episodes of this TV version the first two novels are mixed and merged.
There’s a split timeline, and it jumps forwards and backwards. There are also two cases which run alongside each other,
Often in cop procedural shows it doesn’t really matter who says half the lines as the information is simply drip fed to move you a bit closer—slowly—to the conclusion.
Here character—and not just the main characters—drives the story, which is about solving the detectives as much as the central mysteries.
It could develop into a very good thing indeed.