“A nasty secret lies at the bottom of the loch and it’s not a monster.”
This six-part murder mystery has a fantastic start. We are lulled into a false sense of security with images of pretty boats and picturesque Scottish highlands, however we are drawn into the loch where we discover the body of a dead man. Bound and weighed down under the murky water.
Soon after a piano teacher is discovered at the bottom of a precipice, however it was not the fall that killed him but rather having his brain extracted through his nose, while he was still alive. This sends shockwaves through the small community of Lochanfoy prompting DCI Lauren Quigley (Siobhan Finneran) to open an investigation. Detective Sergeant Annie Redford (Laura Fraser) is determined to solve the mystery however she soon discovers that her daughter – Evie – is more involved in the case than originally expected.
I quite enjoyed this series, I really liked the Scottish theme and I felt it had a good layout for a dark murder mystery centred focused on the Loch. ITV promised that the loch “would become a character in itself” and it certainly was a great setting for the storyline.
The series has a decent cast. I’ve always been a fan of Finneran and Fraser. While I thought Alastair Mackenzie played the maligned Craig Petrie very well (I was convinced it was him!).
However I thought the pace was a bit slow at times. I know the series was set in a small rural town but there was no sense of urgency to stop this serial killer at all costs. Even when three dead bodies have appeared in the town and three students are shot on a school trip, there is hardly a sense of desperation or emotion from the main cast. Redford is the protagonist and drives the narrative forward but at a very slow pace in my opinion. It would be interesting to see her try to understand the serial killer, to out think and out manoeuvre him. Instead it appears to be a process of elimination and helpful tip offs from the support cast. For example during Redford’s realisation that Kieran was not who he said he was, she needed a calm, logical reminder from her husband that she had installed a tracking device in her daughter’s mobile phone. I just think the protagonist needed to uncover more dramatic ground breaking discoveries, especially in a murder mystery.
Although this is a murder mystery there are certainly a lot of red herrings. Every character is a suspect. Even the minor characters such Evie’s friends at high school have something to hide. One is bipolar, one is bullied, one has a secret identity and one is hiding a pregnancy due to an affair with the local doctor. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it makes every character interesting but it just makes it difficult to keep track of what is going on. In some cases it was frustrating. When Redford’s husband – Alan – shocks us by revealing that he “lied” towards the end of the penultimate episode. It was then revealed that he lied about “seeing the Loch ness monster”. Or when Petrie keeps his office locked and “out of bounds” for most of the series. Then he reveals he keeps it locked, as that is where he keeps his laptop with his counselling videos. Although using lots of suspects gives the show a “whodunit” edge some of the reasons were irritating.
There were a couple of good themes in the series. I liked the underlying conflict between the local constable and the young detective from London, the latter whom rocked the boat with accusations. The tension between the north and the south was interesting and gave the setting a bit more depth.
I also like the prominent maternal themes especially in the final episode. Bea Whitehead is revealed to have swapped her children’ identities as she felt Jordan was cheated out of a normal life. Mahari Toner expresses her grief at the loss of her son and how the community had turned him into a scapegoat. Annie Redford saves her daughter from the serial killer on the banks of the loch. All of which are powerful and dramatic.
However there were also a couple of unrealistic scenes in the series. A sedated teenager wakes up from a coma (bit of a cliché) and manages to batter a detective over the head with an oxygen tank. A teenager almost kills two of his classmates in a car chase simply because he is a bully, just to name a few examples. I found the reasoning for the serial killer’s sadistic murders slightly ridiculous. Jordan Whitehead is revealed to have murdered anyone who gets close to him or begins to suspect him, all of which was triggered by the return of his abusive father. However if this was the case, why did the psycho not brutally murder his Evie? I mean they were very close enough and he did introduce her to his bedbound brother? Albeit I am knit picking at minor moments, they all contribute to a rather illogical narrative.
Although this series was not the most realistic and a little bit puzzling, I would recommend watching it. It was intriguing and more importantly, it was just a bit different.