A murder mystery on a remote and scenic Scottish island. A determined cop with a likeable sidekick, trying to figure out what is happening. Got to be Shetland, right? Well, no. Long before Jimmy Perez, there was The Nightmare Man, a BBC TV four-part serial which aired in 1981, enjoyed considerable success - and yet has never been shown again, for reasons unclear. I didn't have a TV at the time, but I'd heard about the show, and now I've watched the DVD version, and read the remarkably detailed booklet which accompanies it. And I'm glad I did.
The Nightmare Man was based on a novel by a dentist called David Wiltshire. He thought about calling his book The Nightmare Man, but opted - unwisely, I think - for Child of Vodyanoi. The book first appeared in 1978 and made little impression; if you could find a nice copy in a dust jacket today, I'm sure it would cost you a pretty penny - there aren't any for sale on the internet as I write. Wiltshire has continued to write, his most recent novel appearing as recently as 2013, but this is the story he's best known for.
And with good reason. The BBC did him proud, even though I agree with his view that the setting of the final encounter might have been better if they'd kept to his original concept. In a touch I find pleasing, Wiltshire made his protagonist a dentist, and this idea was retained by Robert Holmes in the screenplay, although the character's name was changed. He's played by James Warwick, best known as Tommy Beresford in Partners in Crime. His girlfriend is played by the young Celia Imrie, whose quality as an actor is certainly evident here, especially in the first of the four episodes.
Something strange is happening on the foggy island of Inverdee. A woman is found horribly murdered, and soon there is another victim, a male birdwatcher. There are a few brief, enigmatic moments of action seen from the killer's perspective - almost through a red mist. A mysterious colonel turns up on the island, a sheep is butchered, and it's soon apparent that this is no ordinary murder case. Really, this is a story that straddles genres, but I found it entertaining. The cops are well played by Maurice Roeves and James Cosmo' the latter turned up recently as a hard man in Shetland. It's a small world...