The Red Shadows (3 stars)

The Red Shadows

Diverting tale of familial misdemeanours in stylish French drama

If you're someone who finds it difficult to keep track of every single person that exists on your own family tree, then French mini-series The Red Shadows could throw up a few head-scratching moments. By their very nature, crime dramas should have the viewer trying to concentrate hard on more than the action and the facts being presented before us. We draw conclusions, second guess, and project theories with the merest trinkets of solid information until it all crashes down towards a mighty conclusion where most things finally fall into place. Add in the complexities of a convoluted family set-up, such as the Garniers here with four siblings stretching across generations, parents with new partners, parents having affairs, jolly uncles and half-relations, and you might need a whiteboard next to the TV to keep track of who's who.

This already entangled family framework is yet further chucked into bewilderment when Clara (Manon Azem) emerges after being lost for a couple of decades, kidnapped as a four-year-old by a shadowy gang, with her mother being gunned down in the melee. Her sister Aurore (Nadia Farès) was meant to be looking after her on that fateful day, but was too busy with a boy. Now she is a top cop who has been obsessed with her sister's disappearance all this time and during an investigation into a cruel killing uncovers evidence that she is still alive. So, everyone should be delighted at Clara's sudden arrival moments later, but paranoia and suspicion are rife, especially when a major property sale is now cast into doubt.

It would take far too long to lay out the initial ramifications of Clara's dramatic reappearing act, but after a few early missteps in the narrative (documents and photographs are found a little bit too conveniently by just the right person in order to move the plot forward), it does border on exciting in the final pair of its six episodes, triggered by a dramatic twist to the tale. The Red Shadows may not linger too long in the memory and any Walter Presents devotees might spend too long double-taking on some familiar faces, but for a diverting slice of pre-festive crime fare, it does a job.

All episodes available now on All 4.

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