Murders to Fall For

Daily Mail (London), April 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

Murders to Fall For


Byline: PETER PATERSON

Murder City (ITV1); Grand Designs (C4)

THE primal fear of falling from a great height, presumably originating in the distant past when our simian forebears swung from tree to tree, has always been eagerly seized on in crime fiction.

Director Richard Spence chose to play on this fear in contriving a horrifying opening sequence for last night's return of the Amanda Donohoe and Kris Marshall detective series, Murder City, thus joining a gallery of filmmakers, from Hitchcock to Tarantino, who have exploited the falling body syndrome.

Mind you, it doesn't work as black comedy: there was something peculiarly revolting about the Graham Greene story in which a schoolboy achieves some playground fame solely because his father had been killed walking along a city street when he was struck by a pig falling out of a window.

In Murder City, a girl drops off her fiance after midnight at his home, a high-rise block, on the eve of their wedding.

As he stands at the entrance waving her goodbye, the camera picks up a figure seven storeys above, plummeting through the air towards him. The camera goes into slow motion as we, the girl and at the final split second the doomed boy watch the cartwheeling figure land with a sickening thud. The girl rushes from her car to find the husband-to-be she's just been kissing goodnight lying dead alongside an unknown woman.

The classic question immediately faces Donohoe's Detective Inspector Susan Alembic and Marshall's Detective Sergeant Luke Stone: did the woman fall or was she pushed?

Having announced itself with such verve, Murder City soon appeared to become bored with the manner of these two deaths, veering off into a story of a posh dating club for married adulterers, the risks facing undercover women detectives, the sexual abuse of the young and the psychology of serial murderers.

In its parts, the story was gripping enough, but put together, it became a confusing mishmash. Even so, the key partnership between the glamorous-Alembic and the ruffianish Stone works extremely well, without the usual hints of seething romance in such pairings.

In fact, Stone is something of a misogamist, contemptuous of marriage, and totally dedicated to his job, while Alembic has a husband somewhere in the suburbs who is causing her some anxiety by inappropriate internet surfing during her absences on duty, a worry she uses as a handy cover story when assigned to delve into the dating club's activities as a vengeful housewife looking for a fling.

There's a running gag, too, over pathologist Dr Annie Parvez (Amber Agar), who has taken an expensive course in criminal profiling. This has impressed the head of the murder team, Detective Chief Inspector Turner (Tim Woodward), but irritates Alembic and Stone no end. …

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