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A perfect partnership; The psychological thrillers of Nicci French.

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The weather has suddenly turned colder. It feels as if we are now entering winter proper, with the threat of snow and of sharp,icy mornings. This means it is also the season of enjoying a flurry of televised detective and mystery dramas. After months of scarcity we now demand abundance. However, 2015 doesn’t yet appear to have delivered in spades on my expectations. We have Broadchurch and Silent Witness, of course and the new series of the Swedish Wallender has been airing on BBC4 to fill that notorious drama free zone that is Saturday nights. Wolf Hall is also about to begin its run on BBC 2, although I’d put this more in the costume drama category.
Call me greedy, but I’d really like some more. Luckily, a trawl through ITVplayer turned up an expected treat. The three part 2011 adaptation of Nicci French’s novel, What To Do When Someone Dies is currently available. Starring Anna Friel and Marc Warren and renamed Without You for television purposes, it is well worth a watch.
Set in cold, wintry Manchester, thirty something Ellie Manning is forced to come to terms with the tragic death of her husband, Greg, in a road accident. What complicates matters is that a mysterious woman died in the car with him, the beautiful Milena. Despite her friends and family being convinced that Greg was having an affair, Ellie soon discovers that many of the facts just don’t fit. She decides to begin her own investigation to clear Greg’s name and discover what really happened to him. Friel is always very watchable and manages to portray the grief of a bereaved wife extremely well.
I read this particular Nicci French novel whilst on holiday a few years back. The husband and wife writing team of Nicci Gerard and Sean French have always been favourites of mine. They are masters of the psychological thriller genre, unafraid to dwell on the details and intricacies of the human psyche. My favourite of their books is The Memory Game, which plays with our perception of the present and the past.
A few of French’s novels have been made into television dramas and films in the past, with varying success, but Without You effectively captures the tension of the book and the superior cast raise it above the ordinary.
Nicci French have, within recent years, ventured out with a new series of books featuring psychiatrist Frieda Klein. But their stand alone psychological thrillers remain the duo’s best work; with recent, madly hyped books in the same genre (I shall mention no names) paling by comparison.
So, if you are looking for a little more selection in the mystery dramas currently on offer, check out the ITV3 page on ITVplayer, you might just stumble upon a real gem.

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