thu 13/06/2024

Life of Crime/Murder on the Home Front, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Life of Crime/Murder on the Home Front, ITV

Life of Crime/Murder on the Home Front, ITV

Fancy a bit of charnel hopping? Two new crime dramas pile on the corpses

It's another fair cop: Hayley Atwell in 'Life of Crime'

Another day, another murder to solve on ITV. Broadchurch, Endeavour and Foyle’s War all having recently ended, the channel has been in dire need of a fresh supply of corpses since, ooh, Monday morning. To the rescue, on consecutive nights, has come another brace of crime dramas. Both set in the past. With lady crime-solvers in play. All sorts of boxes ticked.

First, to the 1980s, where Hayley Atwell has donned a copper’s uniform so that she can step into her late father’s shoes. Disappointingly, this mainly seems to involve being groped by drunken colleagues and blushing slightly when balled out by her superior. But as the last person to talk to a murdered teenager, WPC Denise Woods is determined to help solve the case. Her old-school boss, apparently on secondment from Ashes to Ashes (Con O’Neill), favours fingering the victim's father, who has previous for grievous bodily harm and, helpfully, isn’t Afro-Caribbean. Hayley/Denise has other ideas. Towards the end of this first episode, we found her helping the case along by planting a crafty bit of DNA at the crime scene. Hey, it's the Eighties – you can also tell from the rioting and the New Romantic chart hits. This is just a hunch, but as eps two and three advance the story forward to the present day, nobbling the evidence may come back to haunt her.

Life of Crime is time-travelling drama without the titular assistance of David Bowie (although “Let’s Dance” popped up in a pitch-perfect disco scene). Like all good telly cops of any era, Atwell has been issued a demon to grapple with – in her case a fondness for cheap plonk. Not quite crediting the alcoholism at this point, though believing anything of Atwell in her mid-fifties may turn out to be a bigger ask. Jim (son of Ken) Loach directs Oliver Frampton’s script. Given the ambitious structure, you can’t see Life of Crime returning for another series. And yet ITV’s hunger for fresh corpses must be fed.

Spool back in time to Thursday night and we find ourselves in the 1940s, where the Blitz is in full krieg, spivs are on the make all over London and girls are getting murdered by an unpleasant cove whose signature is a swastika carved into his victim’s tongue. There have been three swastikas so far, and we’ve only had an hour minus the ads. Wet-behind-the-ears forensic pathologist Dr Lennox Collins (Patrick Kennedy) is on hand to read the corpses for clues and sigh as dimwit coppers muck up the crime scene. Thank heavens he can call on his resourceful young secretary, aspiring crime reporter Molly Cooper (Tamzin Merchant), who comes usefully equipped with good typing skills and a steel-lined stomach (pictured above, Kennedy and Merchant).

Murder on the Home Front is loosely adapted from the racy diaries of the recently deceased Molly Lefebure, who in the war occupied a similar position as amanuensis to the pioneering Home Office pathologist Keith Simpson. The titbits have been kept but the characters entirely reinvented in a racy wartime London where anything goes. The result, expertly performed by a cast attuned to the knowing silliness of David Kane’s script, is a hot-stockinged, rooting-tooting hoot. It should be recommissioned, period.

Jasper Rees on Twitter

His resourceful young secretary comes usefully equipped with good typing skills and a steel-lined stomach


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Murder on the home front .. what a waste of an hour of my life. Not a patch on the classic Foyle's War. MOHF light, fluffy, silly, inaccurate etc. Shan't bother with ep 2, ITV don't bother recommissioning it. Keep going with Foyle's War.

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