A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Even if they haven't read the best-selling book on which it has been based, viewers most likely think they already know what they'll get with The Marlow Murder Club.


The two-part cosy crime show comes from Robert Thorogood, whose previous creation Death in Paradise continues to captivate audiences as its whopping 13th season airs weekly.

Almost everything about Death in Paradise can be boiled down to a formula and, speaking on the set of The Marlow Murder Club, Thorogood revealed this is very much the intention.

He told RadioTimes.com and other press that his focus is on trying to write "Agatha Christie style stories", and if Death in Paradise's Richard Poole was his version of Poirot, this new series is his take on Miss Marple.

Armed with this knowledge, we can predict quite a bit about the new series - it will feature some nasty, but not too nasty, murders, it will feature plenty of comedy and camaraderie, and it will all be wrapped up with the central protagonist outing the killer and revealing how they did it.

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Having now seen both parts of The Marlow Murder Club, that pretty much all hits the nail on the head.

Jo Martin as Suzie Harris, Samantha Bond as Judith Potts and Cara Horgan as Becks Starling in The Marlow Murder Club, walking together outside and talking
Jo Martin as Suzie Harris, Samantha Bond as Judith Potts and Cara Horgan as Becks Starling in The Marlow Murder Club. UKTV / Robbie Gray

The drama adapts Thorogood's first novel in his Marlow Murder Club series of books into two parts, splitting the story down the middle and introducing us to the titular trio.

First we meet Samantha Bond's Judith, a crossword writer and retired archaeologist who overhears a gunshot from her neighbour's garden. She's convinced there's been a murder and, soon enough, she is proved right.

Then there's Becks and Suzie, played by The Sandman's Cara Horgan and Doctor Who's Jo Martin. The former is the local vicar's wife, while the latter is a single mum and a dog walker.

Through different connections to the case, the trio form a group, trying to get to the bottom of the murder when they come to believe that the police can't handle the job.

Speaking of which, there's the final piece of the puzzle - DS Tanika Malik, played by Natalie Dew, who is heading up the investigation much to the ire of some of her older, misogynistic colleagues.

But how does the show stack up with Death in Paradise and the rest of the cosy crime genre?

Natalie Dew as DS Tanika Malik in The Marlow Murder Club, stood outside and with a police lanyard around her neck
Natalie Dew as DS Tanika Malik in The Marlow Murder Club. UKTV / Robbie Gray

The central mystery is diverting enough, with a plot that does keep you guessing, a rotation of suspects dipping in and out and a reveal which does come as a genuine surprise.

However, the main points of differentiation between this series and so many other murder mystery shows like this is the central characters and the series's focus on their personal lives.

The characters are each specific and well-drawn, dealing with their own problems but missing excitement and distraction from their days - hence their appetite for crime solving, and much to Tanika's annoyance.

The four stars are all clearly having fun in the roles, particularly as the 'club' get acquainted and start their haphazard, often lawbreaking investigations. There is something joyful in seeing them escape from the mire of their day to day lives.

Samantha Bond as Judith Potts, walking through a graveyard in The Marlow Murder Club
Samantha Bond in The Marlow Murder Club. UKTV / Robbie Gray

While, in many ways, the series focuses on a trio, Dew completes the quasi-quartet, and her DS Tanika Malik is likely to be a favourite with fans. She is hard-working, capable, yet still empathetic and fallible, and a great foil for the trio when they're up to no good.

Martin's Suzie and Horgan's Becks are both sympathetic in their own rights, with the latter perhaps suffering the most throughout the series, while Bond's Judith is likely to be the sticking point for some.

She plays it brilliantly, but Judith is so arrogant and closed off (we find out why later on) that it is initially hard to warm to her, in a show which on some level relies on us doing so.

Like Richard Poole in Death in Paradise before her, she is very likely to soften as the series goes on, if it is to return for a second outing.

Regardless, in truth it's the dynamic between them which works the best - one feels that none of these characters would necessarily be able to lead a series like this on their own, but their chemistry together really pops, and makes for a team with an energy that does feel somewhat new.

All of this means that the series is entertaining enough. However, perhaps its main downfall is that, for the most part, it just doesn't stand out from the crowd.

Jo Martin as Suzie Harris, Samantha Bond as Judith Potts and Cara Horgan as Becks Starling in The Marlow Murder Club, looking at something off screen
Jo Martin as Suzie Harris, Samantha Bond as Judith Potts and Cara Horgan as Becks Starling in The Marlow Murder Club. UKTV/Robbie Gray

Even with the team dynamic working well, the series is still another in a long line of cosy crime dramas working to a strict formula, slightly differently structured and framed, but perhaps not quite enough.

Where Death in Paradise has its distinctive setting, and Beyond Paradise mixes South West Coast charm with a central character we already know and love, The Marlow Murder Club lacks a killer USP.

Marlow looks beautiful and sun-dappled throughout, and the series is likely to leave viewers longing for those summer days, but we've seen so many of these shows set in quaint English towns and villages before.

It's harking back to a bygone era of cosy crime, but as the genre never actually left, merely evolved slightly, it is left feeling a little out of date.

It's also perhaps a little too cosy at times - for all the talk from the cast of the "darkness" of the series, it very rarely feels that way, barring a dramatic moment near the end of the run. For the most part, the deaths feel unfortunately inconsequential, even when they hit so close to home.

Of course, more seasons may come along with more mysteries which change all this - this two-parter has really been about setting the stage, introducing us to the characters and bringing them together.

All in all, if you're looking forward to The Marlow Murder Club and fancy a fun murder mystery, it will do the trick. The characters are charming, the performances are effective and the reveals are impressive.

However, if you're looking for something new, fresh and formula-busting, then you're best to look elsewhere.

The Marlow Murder Club airs on 6th and 7th March at 8pm on Drama. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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