This is a murder mystery series with a twist and I think it works. Whilst it is possible to compare the series with conventional ‘who done it’ dramas such as Poirot, there is an element of originality in the inclusion of narrator Julian Fellowes. In each episode, he navigates the audience through events, weighing up the evidence as it emerges. It many respects he helps to interweave the past with the present without becoming overly intrusive and he also gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on events that have occurred so far. For some reason he reminds me of Hichcock when introduced ‘Hichcock Presents’: perceptive and trustworthy.
The show’s strength is that all evidence, both for and against a particular guilty party, is presented in a relatively unbiased way. As these murders have never been solved, it seems only appropriate that there are no emphatic conclusions to be drawn, simply mere supposition based on the evidence presented. However,during the final sequence of each episode, Fellowes recounts his personal interpretation of events. Again I like the idea that whilst they are always logically concluded, the audience does not have to accept his explanation. I actually found myself disagreeing with a few of the ‘conclusions’ drawn. This show gives the audience the space to create independent solutions and so enraged accusations of ‘what a ludicrous ending’, often a case with formulaic dramas, are avoided. For once I felt that I could play a real television detective in the confidence that no body was going to tell me I was wrong! This is one show that actually believes the audience has a brain. That's quite rare these days.
Each episode explores a contrasting social class and historical period as well as method of murder. Variety is the spice of life as they say and the production values are excellent. Another strength this show has is that all ‘guest appearances’ are by well established, capable actors: David Calder, Julia St. John, Jean Marsh, Stella Gonet, David Schofield and Amanda Root, to name but a few. This means that the acting is superb in each episode. There is no weakest link. Fortunately, there is also a distinct lack of 'the one who looks pretty but can't act' guest appearances or the 'it must be him as he's the only famous one in it' approach to casting; all seem to be symptomatic of other contemporary murder mysteries.
Overall, I found myself gradually drawn deeper and deeper into this series. It deserves to be watched!