A Mother's Son is a two-part crime drama screened earlier this week, and I've just caught up with it. I saw a newspaper preview which likened it to Hitchcock's film Suspicion (based on, but not as good or as dark as, Before the Fact by Francis Iles) and thought I ought to take a look at it. But interested as I was, I didn't expect such excellence. It really was gripping.
The setting - evocatively photographed - is East Anglia. The attractive but brittle Hermione Norris has recently married Martin Clunes, an affluent solicitor, after divorcing the rather less affluent Paul McGann. The new relationship brings two families together; two groups of children, and two adults still feeling their way as a couple. Then a 13 year old girl who goes to school with their kids goes missing. Soon her body is found in reed beds. But what is even worse for Rosie (Norris) is that she starts to worry that her son Jamie (superbly played by Alexander Arnold) may know something about the girl's death.
Suspicion is a fascinating subject for a crime story. Before the Fact is a masterpiece, even though it has a major flaw as regards the characterisation of drippy potential murder victim Lina Aysgarth. One of the finest crime novels I've ever read, Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook, deals with the same issue very differently but quite brilliantly. And I had a play with it in my second whodunit featuring Harry Devlin, Suspicious Minds.
In this story, there were various clues and plentiful red herrings, but a plot twist that I anticipated never materialised. The real focus of the story was on the corrosive nature of suspicion (something Cook's book handles superbly) and the complex nature of family life. The dilemma of whether Rosie should tell the police about her suspicion was nicely handled, though I must say I sided with Clunes on this one rather than Norris. A really good television drama, one of the best I've seen in a long while.