Oline Cogdill


Many British crime drama series that have successful runs on television in the U.K. never make it to the United States. Not even as PBS series or on BBC America.

Take Blue Murder, which ran in Britain from 2003 to 2009. A complete collection is available from Acorn Media, as season one, two, three and four.

Blue Murder revolves around DCI Janine Lewis, played to perfection by Caroline Quentin, a single mother of four trying to balance her demanding career as head of a high-profile squad in Manchester, England, with raising four children. Her ex-husband left her when her youngest was a toddler.

Showing the struggles that detectives -- especially women detectives -- have in balancing career and home isn't a new theme. But Blue Murder makes this seem like a fresh idea. Janine is an insightful, conscientious cop, but an ordinary cop, not some super detective who can juggle it all. She is good at her job and has the respect of her squad with its diverse personalities.

Home is another matter -- one of her children is acting up, blaming her for their father walking out; others are going through teenage hormones. The contrast between the efficiency of the detectives' work and the chaos of Janine's home is well explored.

altQuentin (Jonathan Creek) delivers terrific performances as Janine, showing the inspector's strength, but also her frustration with her children and her own parenting skills and her overall tiredness. Janine's close-knit squad include D.I. Richard Mayne (Ian Kelsey) and Detective Tony Schap (Nicholas Murchie).

Many of Blue Murder's plots come down to the vagaries of family, paralleling Janine's home life with that of the victims and criminals. A cheerleader finds her the body of her mother, who was the squad's adviser; a rock star about to break into the big time; an illegal immigrant with unusual ties.

Blue Murder also shows a modern Manchester, which is known as the world's first industrialized city. Manchester is still known for its commerce as it was ranked in 2010 as the second-best place to do business in the UK and the 12th best in Europe. Scenes in Manchester are intriguing; those episodes that take place in the countryside show are breathtakingly filmed.

Author Cath Staincliffe created Blue Murder and wrote several episodes. Staincliffe is the author of the Sal Kilkenny mysteries. Her latest novel is the standalone Witness.

Blue Murder illustrates how the constant struggle between work and home is fodder for excellent drama.

Photo: The Blue Murder team: Caroline Quentin, front, flanked from left to right, Belinda Everett, Nicholas Murchie, Paul Loughran and Ian Kelsey.
Photo courtesey Acorn Media