I don’t watch many television series these days, but I’ve seen quite a few episodes of both ‘Lewis’ and ‘Wallander’ (originally the Branagh series, now the rather different Swedish series) and this caused me to muse on the merits of both.
The episodes of ‘Lewis’ that I saw came from the last series. ‘The Allegory of Love’ was first rate, and up to the standard of all but the very best episodes of ‘Inspector Morse’. The story starts briefly with shots of a beautiful and mysterious young woman (Katia Winter) before moving to a book launch attended by Inspector Lewis. The book in question is a fantasy novel by handsome Dorian Crane (Tom Milsom) and it soon becomes apparent that his good looks, charm and all-round brilliance have attracted several admirers, and prompted much jealousy. At a regrettably early point, the beautiful young woman is murdered – but was she the killer’s intended victim?
As ever, the casting was excellent. The suspects included such fine actors as Art Malik and James Fox, and for a while I thought Lewis might find himself a new lady, but it was not to be. The plot was pleasingly convoluted, and though credibility was stretched, this was a price worth paying for a thoroughly entertaining story.
I’ve also just seen ‘The Great and the Good’ – this Lewis story benefited from a screenplay by Paul Rutman, who has written the script for the televised version of Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope novel Hidden Depths. Again, it was very enjoyable stuff, the excellence of the acting and the twists of the story-line compensating for the rather unlikely plot.
Across the North Sea, ‘The Tricksters’ also saw the hero-detective contemplating the possibility of an improvement to his love life, though Kurt Wallander enjoyed rather more amorous success than poor old Lewis after picking up a woman on a lonely forest road. For once, though, I thought that the story was not especially gripping. Two young girls discover the body of an apparently pleasant man with a love of horses. But he turns out not to have been pleasant after all. In theory, I prefer the length of the Wallander series (an hour and a half rather than the two hours allocated to Lewis’s investigations) but the simple truth is that the strength of each episode depends above all on the quality of the story.