Starring: Martin Henderson, Diana Glenn, Piper Morrissey
Nice location, shame about the neighbours. In this Australian murder mystery, a pretty suburban street is turned into a crime scene when a local boy is found dead in the woods nearby. Ben, the humble housepainter (any colour so long as it’s white) who happens to stumble upon the body when he’s out jogging, is disconcerted to find himself the prime suspect. Hassled by the police and feeling the net closing in around him, he does a bit of sleuthing on his own, but his activities only make him look more guilty and serve to open up a whole hornet’s nest of unhappy family history and recriminations.
As one crashing blow after another falls upon poor Ben, you can occasionally tire of his expression of perpetual bewilderment and wish he was a bit quicker on the uptake. On the whole, though, Martin Henderson – who has a sort of Bill Pullman-ish sensitivty – makes for a sympathetically befuddled hero, and he’s one of the show’s key assets. Another very appealing factor is its mood – however bad things get, the sun is still shining and everything looks picture perfect. The bright soap lighting and décor make a change from the deep gloom that usually enshrouds crime dramas these days.
Then there’s a strong female cast with plenty to say. Diana Glenn is sharp and bitter as Ben’s wife, who thinks that he has got a thing for Jess (Adrienne Pickering), the dead boy’s lissomely blonde mother – and who’s he kidding, there’s definitely some chemistry between them. Also very eye-catching is Philippa Coulthard (Lightning Point) as Ben’s sulky but essentially sensible elder daughter Tash, whose social life takes a hit because of her dad’s increasing paranoia. And adding a note of sweetness is his innocent yet precocious younger daughter Eva (a lovely turn by Piper Morrissey), the only one who seems at all keen for Ben to fight on and beat the murder rap. With this lot clamouring for attention, scenes are rarely dull.
Just occasionally a note of sameyness creeps into Ben’s trials and tribulations, but the central man-proves-his-innocence story arc is sturdy, the cast and setting are very attractive, and if you fancy watching a well-crafted whodunnit where it doesn’t tip down with rain all the time, then Secrets and Lies might be right up your street.