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He’s back! Grace – but not much favour I’m afraid …

Yesterday saw the return of actor John Simm as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace to our television screens on ITV.

There is a long and stout tradition of location-specific fictional sleuths – think Morse (Oxford), Rebus (Edinburgh), Taggart (Glasgow) and Leeds (DCI Banks) to name but a handful – and Grace is firmly based in East Sussex’s Brighton – as is his creator Peter James, whose Grace novels have sold 21 million copies worldwide, notched him 19 consecutive Sunday Times number ones and been translated into 38 languages.

In posting my review I need to declare two things in advance.

The first is that I have never read a Grace novel and therefore come to the main character purely as he appears on the screen.

The second is that – whilst acknowledging that enjoyment of fictional creations necessarily requires an unmentioned “dramatic licence” conspiracy between the writers/producers and their readers/viewers – setting a project in a particular location carries with it certain risks and distractions as regards authenticity.

When it comes to DS Grace and Brighton – with which I am passably familiar – for example, personally I have had some difficulty in accepting the authenticity – and therefore the dramatic licence – involved in the project on two grounds.

Firstly, whenever Grace visits Brighton locations that I know well I find that I cannot prevent myself from immediately extracting myself from the story line to marvel “Oh, he’s walking under the pier …” or “I know that street (or shop) …”.

Secondly, I occasionally find myself idly wondering whether the real-life upstanding local council burghers, politicians and indeed senior police figures of Brighton are entirely content at the potential double-edged sword of it being depicted simultaneously as a veritable hot bed of crime in which (seemingly) both Mafia-type gangs and serial murderers appear to thrive and its conscientious but sometimes hapless detectives apparently make pedestrian progress on any particular case at hand. Arguably, if in real life any city had as much crime going on in it as DS Grace’s Brighton, it would not only be the subject of regular questions being raised in Parliament but at risk of its entire administration being placed in “special measures”!

I’m being semi-serious here: does the fictional Grace put off – or, alternatively, attract – tourists to Brighton?

Last night’s two-hour outing saw Grace and his team investigating a “dark web” internet crime syndicate who had set about filming violent (sometimes bondage-based) “snuff movie” murders, exhibiting them via its website to paying subscribers and then also committing extortion and/or blackmail upon those who viewed them, apparently without any concern about being caught – and indeed positively taunting the police by deliberately leaving “calling card” evidence for them to find at the scenes of their murders in the form of an example of a particular species of large north African/southern European beetle.

I regret to confess that last night I dozed off [I was informed later by my husband] no fewer than three times as the tale gradually unfolded, despite the excellence of John Simm as the lead character and the welcome arrival half way through of former vice detective “Storming Norman” Potting, a new member of Grace’s team, played by actor Craig Parkinson (previously most famous as the villainous DS Matthew “Doc” Cottan in the BBC 2 series Line of Duty).

My overall verdict –  a somewhat flat return for DS Grace after the standards set in last season’s run but hopefully with some better fare to come.





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About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts