Grace (3 stars)


Hectic standalone crime drama that pits John Simm against some primal forces after the stag do from hell

For those who complain about the large amounts of filler that occupy many TV drama series, Grace will come as quite the antidote. So much so that an argument can easily be made that this feature-length adaptation of Peter James' 2005 bestseller Dead Simple has gone too far in the opposite direction. A minute in and you might be convinced that you've dropped into the series halfway through, as a courtroom scene plunges headfirst into dialogue and character-setting that seems to imply previous knowledge. You wait for it to settle down, but after yet another weird vault to a scene with precious little context, you suspect that Grace has been edited by Freddy Krueger (or Edward Scissorhands: you can choose your own sharp-nailed individual for the cutting room).

John Simm is typically splendid as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a conflicted man (obviously) who is a wizard at cracking cases but has been downgraded to desk work due to his high-profile penchant for using a medium as part of the crimesolving process. Even his trusted sidekick Glenn Branson (Richie Campbell) is a sceptic but when a property developer goes missing during his own stag do, even Branson might be tempted to doff a cap after the psychic sends them pretty much in the right direction. Despite the pre-watershed kick-off time, there are scenes here which will have you climbing up the walls in anxiety when the prospective groom is victim to a lads' prank that goes as badly wrong as you could imagine.

After what feels like ten minutes, we've raced ahead to a conclusion which leaves us in no doubt about the baddies and their slightly unrevelatory motivations. Dead Simple is the first of two Grace dramas for 2021, and this opener lurches between perfectly serviceable police procedural and a behind-the-sofa shocker that plays on one of humanity's key primal fears. You might just wish they could have used two or three episodes to give the narrative, action and characters a little more time to breathe.

ITV, Sunday 14 March, 8pm.

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