Grace is more than a ‘Dead Simple’ DSI

Sunday: Grace; (ITV, 8pm)

DS Roy Grace and DS Branson
DS Roy Grace and DS Branson

What makes the ideal TV detective?

They have to be tough but compassionate. They’re usually loners with a troubled private life too, and they tend to be married to the job.

With those factors in mind, there’s every reason to expect Grace to be ITV’s latest hit show. It’s based on an immensely popular series of novels by Peter James – they have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 37 different languages – in which DSI Roy Grace of the Sussex police force is the main protagonist.

If you need more reasons to tune in, the first two screenplays have been written by Russell Lewis, the creator of Endeavour, and star John Simm in the lead role.

“It would have been crazy for me to turn down such a brilliant opportunity to play a lead for ITV in a best-selling detective series,” says Simm. “It is just such a great part. I was doing Macbeth in Chichester when I got the call. My agent said, ‘Have you read these Peter James’ books?’

“I immediately bought the first two novels and I couldn’t put them down so I knew what a fantastic role it would be to play. I’m a voracious reader, but had never read a lot of crime fiction before. Once I started reading the novels I couldn’t stop, I’m currently on book 10. They are very clever and Peter is brilliant at what he does.”

He adds: “My father-in-law was a policeman in the Met Police for thirty-odd years. He read the first few and was very complimentary about the procedural stuff that’s in there. He said it was rare for an author to get it absolutely bang on.”

The first tale is based on the novel Dead Simple, and finds Grace haunted by the disappearance of his beloved wife Sandy. His career, which he used to take great pride in, is going nowhere; his unorthodox methods are under scrutiny and he’s been relegated to dealing with cold cases.

However, that’s set to change when his friend and colleague DS Glenn Branson (Richie Campbell) asks him for help. He’s investigating the disappearance of a groom who vanished on his stag night. He was due to get married just a few days later and seemed to have no reason to do a runner. After looking over the notes and delving further, Grace suspects that something very sinister indeed is going on.

The same cast and crew have also filmed an adaptation of James’ second Grace book, Looking Good Dead, but we’ll have to wait until later in the year to see it.

“There are 17 Roy Grace novels so far and the wonderful thing was that Peter James said he was writing the new ones with me in his head this time, which is great,” smiles Simm. “He is a prolific writer. I just hope people like what we have done and we get to do some more.”

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