A star rating of 3 out of 5.

You might be forgiven for thinking Ridley is just a series of Ted Hastings’s retirement capers, but believe it or not, it’s a fully-fledged four-parter with mysteries, drama and err, soft jazz performances.

Starring Adrian Dunbar as the eponymous lead, we meet our brooding hero just 18 months after losing his wife and daughter to a brutal arson attack. The former detective is forced to leave the police on medical grounds when he struggles to come to terms with what happened to him and his family.

Each two-hour episode investigates a different crime, with the central theme of Ridley’s grief running throughout. It’s Vera in tone, with Ridley filling in for the beloved Geordie cop this time around. And like it's northern counterpart, it's filmed in a countryside setting, though this time it's Yorkshire and Lancashire, not Northumberland (equally as stunning, however).

The mystery in episode 1 is centred around a father who's been gunned down in a very quiet part of town. Ridley is called back to the investigation when someone he's very familiar with is drawn into the suspect list. The police need his help, and Ridley's all too keen to offer it.

Without giving too much away, you’ll probably guess what’s going on about half way through. It's not quite as complex as Line of Duty or other big blockbuster thrillers, but it doesn't need to be either. It's satisfying getting to the end, which is surprisingly really harrowing, given the overall gentler tone of the series.

All eyes will undoubtedly be on Dunbar though. It’s impossible to see him in a crime series without comparing him to Line of Duty’s Hastings, so here goes. Ridley’s more brooding, more internal and generally more rounded as a character than Hastings, who has his razor sharp focus on catching bent coppers. It feels at times like we're watching Hastings on his holidays, enjoying the Northern countryside and delving into a police station to see if they need a hand; he is a brilliant investigator, after all.

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Adrian Dunbar in Ridley.
Adrian Dunbar in Ridley. ITV

Ridley’s quest for the truth and justice exists in much the same vein, but this is a character who’s pained and has a life outside of work. Despite the quite obvious comparisons, Ridley is an intriguing character in his own right who will no doubt grow and develop throughout the series and perhaps into a second season, too. Viewers are already rooting for him from the beginning, mainly to see him heal after the tragedy in his life.

So without further ado, it's time to address the elephant in the room: the musical interludes. You read that right.

Much had been made of Dunbar playing "a singing detective" in Ridley and the truth is a little more nuanced than that. Ridley finds solace in his local jazz club, where he can talk to Annie Marling (played by Julie Graham) about what he's really feeling. She is comforting to him, as is the music he performs.

However, the inclusion of the songs is admittedly jarring. In episode 1, we have two songs. The first comes from a very honest place where Ridley quite clearly hits a turning point in his grief journey. It's touching, and Dunbar plays it well.

The second, however, falls at the end of the episode and pulls you with immediacy from the action (in what's genuinely a very harrowing tale) and plunges you into what feels like an audition for Ridley's Christmas album. Whatever this reviewer makes of them, expect to see some hefty discussion on Twitter, regardless.

Adrian Dunbar as Ridley, Bronagh Waugh as DI Carol Farman, Terence Maynard as DCI Paul Goodwin and George Bukhari as DC Darren Benton in Ridley.
The cast of Ridley. ITV

One big plus for Ridley is the cast, particularly the women. Aside from Dunbar, who's undoubtedly the show's pull, Bronagh Waugh's DI Carol Farman is strong, intelligent and will surely rise to the top given her talent. Her scenes with wife Geri (Bhavna Limbachia) are lovely, offering more dimensions to her character. If Ridley does ever really quit for good, a series on Farman would be a fine next step.

Other highlights include the warm and charming Julie Graham as Marling, the owner of the jazz club who offers some relief in scenes away from the police station, and the accomplished Georgie Glen as Dr Wendy Newstone, the chief forensics officer who's no messing and helps deliver resolutions to mystery clearly and concisely. More of her, please.

Ridley as a series isn't bad. If you're missing Vera, it fills the hole perfectly. The stories are surprisingly dark, never patronising, and at times can be twisty. Dunbar is very watchable as the lead, with the cast around him creating a rich world in the glorious rural setting.

This isn't a series that's reinventing the wheel, but if you're after a gentle mystery to sink your teeth into, dive into Ridley.

Ridley airs from Sunday 28th August at 8pm on ITV. For more, check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub.

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