Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TV Tuesday: Dublin Murders

When I saw that our cable company was doing a Watchathon week, offering the usual-for-pay channels Starz, Showtime, Hulu, and Peacock for free, I knew immediately what I wanted to binge in that one week: Dublin Murders. This new BBC TV show, which aired on Starz in November 2019, is based on the first two books of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series: In the Woods and The Likeness. My husband and I are both huge fans of the author and the book series, and we both enjoyed those first two books. In fact, I just read the second book, The Likeness, last fall and was blown away by its unique plot with its unexpected twists. We watched the 8-episode series last week and both loved it. I will write the show description assuming you have not yet read the books.

When a young girl is found murdered in the woods outside of Dublin, with her body arranged on a rock altar, two detectives in the Dublin Murder Squad are assigned to the case. Cassie Maddox, played by Sarah Greene, is a recent addition to the Murder Squad. Her partner, Rob Reilly, played by Killian Scott, is a relatively new detective, but the two of them work well together. They answer the initial call to the scene of the crime, but we soon find out that Rob is hiding an enormous secret. Back in 1985, in these exact same woods, Rob was a young boy named Adam and the sole survivor of three friends who went into those woods and were never seen again. The experience was so traumatic and the other parents and neighbors so cruel to young Adam that his parents shipped him off to boarding school in England, where he changed his name and started a new life. Rob remembers nothing of the crucial 90 minutes between when he and his friends went into the woods and when he was found, alone and screaming with blood in his shoes but unhurt, by the police. Cassie knows Rob's secret and insists they pass the case to other detectives, but Rob soon gets caught up in it and refuses to give it up. Cassie reluctantly agrees. As the case moves forward, past and present mingle, and Rob becomes obsessed, not only with solving the present murder but with finding out what happened to him and his two friends 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, a second case crops up that personally involves Cassie. A young woman is found murdered who not only looks like Cassie's twin but is carrying ID that identifies her as Lexie Mangan, an undercover alias that Cassie created and used in a drug case, pretending to be a student at the nearby university. This new Lexie is a grad student at the university, living with four other grad students in a big, old house in town. Believing the fake Lexie's murder must be connected to their old drug case, Cassie's prior boss in undercover work convinces her to resume her Lexie alias. They tell the housemates that Lexie barely survived her knife wound, and Cassie moves into the house, pretending to be Lexie, in order to find out who actually murdered Lexie, now a Jane Doe. What could go wrong?

Readers of the books will immediately recognize that the TV show combines the timelines for both books 1 and 2 into a single timeframe and TV season. This was a bit disorienting to us at first ("hey, why is Lexie showing up already?"), but we soon adjusted. The cast and crew have done a great job of recreating these outstanding novels. The show has a sinister tone with a constant undercurrent of tension. Both Rob and Cassie have dark histories that interfere with their jobs, though both of them are completely committed to solving these crimes, whatever it takes. The mysteries of both past and present are slowly revealed, with plenty of twists and unexpected turns along the way, creating fabulous suspense that will keep you watching to find out what happens next. As in the books, not every question is neatly answered, and both Cassie and Rob are further damaged by their dark secrets and compulsion to solve their cases, no matter what the cost. Given our 1-week timeframe (more like 6 days when we realized it was temporarily free), we eagerly watched all eight episodes last week and absolutely loved the ride it took us on. Whether you have read the books or not, this is an excellent mystery/suspense series to sink your teeth into.

As of May 1, the show had been neither cancelled nor approved for a second season yet, but we are hoping they continue the show. I am about to read the third book in Tana French's series, The Faithful Place, so I will be ready if the show comes back next year!

Dublin Murders is currently available on Starz and Hulu, with a subscription (or do as we did and check your cable company for a free week promotion). It is also available on Amazon for $1.99 an episode (8 episodes total) or you can sign up for a free Starz trial through Amazon at the link.

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