Brian Cox, whom I know best as the mean ol’ scientist who messed up Jason Bourne’s brain, stars as the fictional version of the real-life 19th Century Edinborough detective, James McLevy. This first series of BBC Radio plays (which originally aired in 2000) recounts four mysteries. In Each, McLevy navigates the complex landscape of the cop who knows all his “charges” and values their lives just as much as the swells who want him to do their bidding. A few quick thoughts:
- McLevy is gruff but fair, a man who secretly cares more than he lets on. He reminds me a lot of the chief inspector from the Murdoch Mysteries, while McLevy’s sidekick reminds me a lot of Murdoch’s Constable Crabtree.
- The series spends significant time on the idea of fairness and class warfare. The first case, “The Trophy Club,” involves the murder of a prostitute and the consequent protection of a couple young swells who seem to be involved. Another case, “The Burning Question,” takes up the question of vigilante justice and the semi-legal gray area inhabited by prostitutes in the era.
- The series also varies in tone quite a bit. “The Second Shadow” brings McLevy up against an organized crime ring and a brutal murder, while “For Unto Us” is a light-hearted Christmas tale that never gets more serious than theft.
- The series is rife with humor as well as crime. Especially amusing are McLevy’s interactions with the alluring brothel owner Jean Brash. Will their playful jests ever become anything more?
Worth a listen.