The odd couple
It's common practice for scriptwriters to stick chalk and cheese together on screen, just to see what happens. Of course, there's always a danger that the net result will be chalky cheese (or indeed cheesy chalk, but we digress). Sometimes, somehow, the two combine to create something quite delicious.
From breeches to murder
The programme's eponymous hero, to give him his full title, is Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, 8th Earl of Asherton, played by Nathaniel Parker. Parker's dashing, Colin Firth-esque demeanour will be familiar to many from such lush period pieces as Far from the Madding Crowd and Vanity Fair. In case you were wondering, he really is pretty posh: his father was Sir Peter Parker (no, not of Spiderman fame), former chairman of British Rail and renowned lover of the arts.
Small but perfectly formed
Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is the matter-of-fact, working class yang to Lynley's silver-spooned yin, constantly pricking his pomposity and feeling sorry for herself to boot. Despite the inherent difficulties, Lynley and Havers manage to forge a decent working relationship. Havers is played by Sharon Small, whose profile has sky-rocketed of late because of her starring role in About a Boy.
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (always concerning murder) zigzag around Britain's more picturesque rural corners, taking in a public school, a Scottish estate and Cambridge University, among other locations. It should come as no surprise, then, to discover that the whole series is based on books written by the mistress of bucolic Albion splendour, Elizabeth George. George's mystery thrillers have made her a firm favourite with critics and readers alike. The success of the TV series has increased her status to a similar level as that of Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter.
Look closely at the supporting cast and you'll notice all sorts of familiar faces. Amanda Ryan (The Forsyte Saga's Holly) shows up, as does Bill Nighy (State of Play's splendidly acerbic editor Cameron Foster and star of recent blockbuster Love Actually), Amita Dhiri (Milly from This Life) and improv comedian and Gormenghast star John Sessions.