Getting Away with Murder: Case Histories
Haunted by the memory of a sister’s and brother’s death, Edinburgh private investigator Jackson Brodie (Jason Isaacs) has more than mysteries with which to contend. His ex-wife wants to move to New Zealand (Kirsty Mitchell) for a job interview, taking his beloved daughter Marlie (Millie Innes)—if only he’d sign the papers. Between looking for an old woman’s lost cats and a runaway wife, he takes cases peppered with moral ambiguity and choices that could let murderers go undetected (though not necessarily “unpunished”).
It’s those moral ambiguities—gray areas—that distinguish Case Histories (newly released on DVD) from other British crime dramas. The slip-cased DVD set is comprised of three stories, each told in two parts: “One Good Turn,” “Case Histories,” and “When Will There Be Good News?,” all based on Kate Atkinson’s first three Jackson Brodie detective novels. The cast of characters is wonderfully quirky; Brodie is called upon to solve their nuanced problems, most of which require more than detective prowess. Much like the classic private detectives of the 1940s, Brodie learns of crimes committed by his clients (and others) that are certainly prosecutable, and must decide what to do with that knowledge.
Jason Isaacs is well cast as Brodie, the ex-cop who is not welcome at the nick, but it’s Zawe Ashton (as Brodie’s receptionist/secretary/assistant/conscience/bookkeeper) who steals every scene in which she appears. Viewers look forward to her wisecracking observations and expert handling of troublesome clients.
Though not as gritty as many British crime series, Case Histories is not lightweight in the style of Rosemary and Thyme or Pie in the Sky either. It presents Brodie as a sort of everyman who can’t do things by the book because there is no book that covers the situations he encounters. Thought-provoking and entertaining, this 2011 series from BBC-1 is a welcome, worthwhile addition to the British crime drama fan’s collection. (Acorn Media deserves high praise for the excellent subtitling which allows those of us who sometimes struggle with UK accents to fully enjoy Case Histories.)