Grace, review: yes, it’s yet another detective drama – but it’s a good’un

Have we reached peak police drama? Viewers tuning in for an episode of McDonald & Dodds (detectives, Bristol) instead found themselves watching Grace (detectives, Brighton) because if ITV had waited any longer to show it on a Sunday night, it would have clashed with BBC One’s Line of Duty (detectives, location unknown). As it was, it clashed with Bloodlands (detectives, School of Over-Acting), which was careering to its silly conclusion on the other channel.

But ITV serves up what the customer wants, and our appetite for crime mysteries doesn’t seem to be waning. Grace, based on the bestselling novels by Peter James, has all the usual elements: a world-weary detective with a sad past, a younger sidekick, a quirk – in this case, visiting mediums to help crack cases – and a boss who doesn’t like mavericks but concedes that they do get results.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good idea to make this a stand-alone film, rather than a series to chuck into the mix with Unforgotten and The Bay and everything else on ITV’s roster. John Simm was pleasingly understated as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and the adaptation was well done by Russell Lewis, creator of Endeavour. Richie Campbell was great as Roy’s colleague, DS Branson, bringing just the right amount of energy to proceedings. As for the plot, it was not one for claustrophobics.

Michael the property developer disappeared on his stag do. The rest of the gang were killed in a traffic accident, so they were no help. Michael’s bride-to-be, Ashley, waited for news. Michael’s partner, Mark, a man whose greatest crime was wearing brown shoes and no socks with a black suit, was acting suspiciously.

The long and the short of it was that Michael’s friends had buried him in a coffin for a joke, which in stag night terms is several steps up from hiring a stripper and stealing a traffic cone. But he was also the target of an evil plan by his business partner and his fiancée, which is a lot of bad luck for one man. Pity Tom Weston-Jones, the poor actor playing Michael, who spent all of his time either in a box or a chest freezer or tied to a chair while someone prised off one of his fingers.

Grace is one of those dramas in which you shouldn’t think too hard about plot points. Such as: would two ruthless killers really leave their main victim alive? And it’s one in which the lead detective works things out inordinately quickly, and immediately tells the suspects that he suspects them. But these aren’t major problems. If ITV can find room in the schedules, another Grace instalment would go down nicely.

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