A perfectly paced British crime series.
Streaming on Amazon | 2011 | PG-13 | 9 episodes
Genre: crime, mystery, drama
Why I watched: I was searching for British crime dramas a while back after finishing The Worricker Trilogy. Case Histories is another miniseries I'd never heard of until I stumbled across it on Amazon Prime. What a delightful surprise!
Jackson Brodie (Jason Isaacs), a former soldier and police detective, is a private investigator in Edinburgh. (Do you recognize Isaacs? He played Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter series!) He has a penchant for cigarettes and long brooding runs, and he deeply loves his precocious young daughter, Marlee (Millie Innes), who usually lives with her mom. Though he has no head for business—which his beleaguered secretary Deborah (Zawe Ashton) opines frequently—Jackson seems to have no trouble finding clients, either. It turns out that traumatized, endangered women and their families are drawn to him like moths to a flame.
He doesn't set out to attract this particular type of client, but attract them he certainly does. (Possibly it has something to do with his good looks? Who's to say!) Jackson, in turn, finds these cases impossible to resist, probably because of his own trauma: A young sister, dead. Mysteriously. So, it's no wonder he has a real soft spot for suffering women and girls and their tragic stories. Each new case revives the memories of that awful event for him, and he recommits to finding out what happened to his sister. It turns out that solving other people's cases is easier than solving his own.
Jackson Brodie makes a compelling protagonist because he doesn't try to be compelling. He certainly isn't perfect. He occasionally has a relationship with a client; his methods are sometimes less-than-legal; he has been known to disappear for weeks at a time with no word to the people who depend on him. Yet he doesn't intentionally cultivate mystique, and he isn't infatuated with his own flaws, nor does he make excuses for them. That may be why people trust him implicitly, despite his limitations. He may not be the steadiest of people, but he's honest to a fault and never betrays someone's trust—except, maybe, for Louise's.
Oh, Louise. Lest you think Jackson solves cold cases and murders all on his own, let me assure you that he has help. A former police colleague—the only one who will speak to him anymore—detective Louise Monroe (Amanda Abbington) helps him out time and time again. She frequently resolves not to, but she, like the other women who find Jackson, is drawn to him. He's like a drug she just can't quit.
Case Histories, like its protagonist, is utterly unpretentious. Boy, do I like that! It's very short—just two seasons of six and three episodes, respectively—and when it ended it surprised me by leaving me desperate for more. A little slow in the beginning, I later realized the show is just patient. It doesn't rush toward the finish, but instead meanders along as if it's the journey, not the destination, that it values (ha). Take your time with this one, friends. You won't want it to end too quickly.
Happy Streaming! Grace