RogerBW's Blog

Julie Enfield Investigates: The Smithfield Murders 26 May 2020

1995 police procedural in five parts, by Nick Fisher. An accountant is killed messily in his flat in Smithfield; DSI Julie Enfield investigates.

I'm starting to find Fisher's tricks quite samey: someone talks in a nasty way about something which sounds criminal but which turns out to have an entirely innocent explanation (here the business of butchery). Less forgivably, there's another bolshy young woman who keeps turning up in the context of the crimes; that's specific enough that you really shouldn't do it often.

That said, Staunton is a trouper and does a remarkably good job with material that's often weak. (All right, I lived in Smithfield for a year and so it's perhaps less shocking to me than it would have been to many listeners.) The romantic angle works less well than the policing, but that's hardly a surprise; Enfield's protectiveness of her underlings, having lost one in the previous story, is solid and effective.

What seems to be a standard mad killer story turns into something rather more interesting, though I don't feel it particularly holds together in retrospect. Fisher's forté is gothic atmosphere more than plot-mechanics.

There appear to be two other Julie Enfields that I haven't yet heard, The Net and the Canal (1996) and Murder West One (1999, shorter pieces); I wait for the BBC to get round to making them available again.

Freely available for the moment via iPlayer.

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