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So long as I've been watching them, the Brits have done televised mysteries exceedingly well. Granted, I haven't seen them all, but I've seen enough to known that theirs is award-winning formula that seeks to bring quality material to the small screen, and ABOVE SUSPICION is no different. The program - it recently aired its fourth series in January, 2012 - are based on Lynda La Plante's novels of Detective Anna Travis. While I've not read any of the books, I'm certainly inclined based on the quality of narrative presented in release of the first two series on DVD.

In short, Ms. La Plante's novels focus on the cases of (rookie) Detective Anna Travis (played by the adorable Kelly Reilly). Along for the ride are several significant supporting characters, including DCI James Langton (Ciaran Hinds), DI Mike Lewis (Shaun Dingwall), and a handful of recurring police players. Together, they explore cases involving serial killers and prostitutes, as well as a maniac who may be preying on beautiful young women .

Particularly winning is Ms. Reilly, who subdues the usual big-city-sexiness so common with female leads of the U.S.-based crime shows beneath a layer of small-town charm: her hair is unkempt most of the time, and, indeed, her coworkers of the first installment remark how she wears practically the same outfit to work every day. Her first day on the job, she traipses through a muddy crime scene in fashionable high heels, only to end up throwing up and fainting upon viewing her first corpse. Still, she's a comely lead, and she brings a kind of naïve, wholesome charm to stories otherwise weighted with dark and bloody matters: psychosis, murder, and incest.

Balancing out Reilly's naiveté is Mr. Hinds as her superior, DCI James Langton. Clearly, he's seen and done it all as a member of the police force, and, yes, that includes doing his boss, Commander Jane Leigh (Nadia Cameron-Blakely). He's engaged in an inappropriate workplace relationship - though occasionally it appears he's done so precisely to make things easier for him at work - and, as rumors persist, it looks like he's willing to again with Detective Travis. He's drawn to her - in part due to the fact that he worked for years with her father - and, together, they share a chemistry driven far more out of professional courtesy than it ever is romantic desire.

And what would a great procedural be without great villains? Of course, I can't go into any detail here without spoiling it, so I'll leave it with a simple, benign observation: they're equally vile, equally despicable, both backed with convincing performances by the talent involved.

If there's any shortcoming here, then it would logically fall back to the source material - the novels of Ms. La Plante - to understand them. Perhaps, a strong case could be made that the villains here are all, predictably, white well-to-do individuals. Clearly, crime is rampant across all levels of society, and maybe - maybe - it'd be nice to see that represented in the stories we tell culturally. In the end, maybe the author is simply trying to reflect that the affluent are more likely to have the means AND the money to engage in some pretty nefarious scenarios; hopefully, I'll get the chance to see the other two series and learn that Ms. La Plante's villains leaned toward a different cultural and economic persuasion. Still, the stories work, and that's why I'd wholeheartedly be interested in seeing more from La Plante Productions.

The program comes from ITV Studios and La Plante Productions, and the disc is produced by Acorn Media. The first installment - "Above Suspicion" - is a two-part series that aired in 2009 and was instantly dubbed "a younger, sassier successor to `Prime Suspect.'" (It's important to note that Ms. La Plante wrote the teleplays for the first and third series of "Prime Suspect.") "Above Suspicion: The Red Dahlia" is a three-part series that aired in 2010, and it deals with a killer who's copycatting the US's infamous Black Dahlia murders. Both series have exceptional video and audio qualities. Additionally, each installment is given a brief `behind-the-scenes' featurette as well as cast interviews. I will state that my player experienced some mild difficulty in correctly accessing the disc's menus - when trying to view the `Episodes Directory,' I was instead shown only a black screen with two boxes for selection but no text appeared in the boxes. It was easy to work around, but I thought it worth mentioning in the event that any other viewer have the same issue.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Smart and simmering, ABOVE SUSPICION couples elements of the effective police procedural along with well-groomed character dramas to produce a winning contrast between the people who'll stop at nothing to break the law versus those who'll stop at nothing to catch them.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 13, 2012
ABOVE SUSPICION set 1 is the 1st 2 stories, 2 disc, 2 series/years 2009-10 of an ongoing British crime gripper. It's raised the bar for realistic crime scene, morgue, and victim visuals. It is so realistic, it can put off the viewer, turned my head a couple of times. DC Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly-Sherlock Holmes;Poldark: Series 2) is the new female copper on the team and the reality of atrocities turns her stomach too. Lovely Reilly plays the role so well, sassy and wanting to be first-rate, but making rookie gaffs. So if you've a weak stomach, you may decide to give this a miss. If you can take the graphic scenes, then you'll also find some top acting by regulars and guest stars of gritty London crime, by author/screenplay writer/producer Lynda La Plante, well known also for Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection. At least reviewers can't complain the film writer took too many liberties with the book, since they are the same person.

ABOVE SUSPICION (book title & series in 2 parts) 114 min WITH SUBTITLES
Pt 1: An 8 year female victim murder series, each alike & brutal, then one exception. Travis goes undercover to end the carnage. DCI Langton (Ciaran Hinds-Amazing Grace) heads a team with Travis a young, rookie, shapely cop with taut blouse and loads to learn-like stemming gag reflex. John Savident is one guest star in this series.
Pt 2: It's a ballet night as Anna is undercover with suspect Daniels (Jason Durr). A trap's set, but some of the HOT action moves to HQ, twixt she and Langton.
Bonus on disc 1: 2 text filmographies, La Plante text bio; photos; Videos with subtitles of Making the Show-6 min, Meet the Creator-4 min, Behind the Scenes Pt1-7 min of realistic recreation of a decomposed body, Behind the Scenes Pt2-6min of Durr's character.

THE RED DAHLIA (book title & series in 3 parts) 140 min WITH SUBTITLES
Pt. 1 Based on true story, model Louise Pennell body found halved & mutilated. Reporter
Reynolds (Edward MacLiam) gets note indicating a murder link to decades-old unsolved Black Dahlia case. New murder dubbed Red Dahlia. Copycat?
Pt 2: Reporter gets victims handbag as well as a date with ethics-naive Anna with proves disastrously conflicting. Perpetrator contact warns of a new victim. Langton's press embargo ignored by Reynolds. Anonymous caller names Col Wickenham (Simon Williams-Upstairs Downstairs), retired surgeon, with alibi. Another star appears as a maid (Sylvia Syms-The Queen).
Pt 3: Phone tap on Wickenham helps, as do photos Anna secures of sex party. Expect the unexpected in this bizarre dysfunctional family and case finale.
Bonus on disc 2: photos; video's with SUBTITLES--How the Dummy was Made-3 min of silicone excellence, Adapting the Novel for TV-8 min where the novel author talks about cutting her own story for film use, Meet the Cast/Crew about 4 min each with subtitles: producer, director, creator, cast, guests.

It's unrated by UK but definitely adult's only (with strong stomach) due to graphic violence & images, nudity mostly prosthetic, and language. If you want more, perhaps read the books, even the Director complained about having to leave out bits, in this over-the-top suspense on the grimy side of murder.
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on June 27, 2012
I am a huge fan of previous Lynda LaPlante series, especially Trial and Retribution and Prime Suspect. I had high hopes that this series would be as good or better than her earlier works. This is not the case. The main characters are not particularly gripping or engaging. Kelly Reilly in particular is a very poor substitute for Victoria Smurfit or Helen Mirren. She seems perpetually confused and uncomfortable in her police role, not at all the strong female lead Ms. LaPlante has created so well in the past. I was overall disappointed with this purchase and delighted to see that Ms. LaPlante turned her attention to Series 5 of Trial and Retribution after this misstep.
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on June 18, 2012
Good Entertainment. It is a modern day look at the Prime Suspect style of police drama. Ciaran Hinds is always worth the money. He was the reason that I actually read the offer to purchase. I have to say that it is worth the money. Both the stories were interesting and held your interest. If you enjoy a good story Above Suspicion will give you all you want.
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on March 12, 2012
This series fails the usual outstanding quality level of the La Plante mystery genre, e.g., "Prime Suspect" and more recently "The Commander" in that it is an obsessive concentration of gore and the grisly and gruesome(a body cut in half) . "Prime Suspect" and "The Commander" are the typical outstanding interwoven, high-quality plots written, acted, filmed, and directed with the amazing skill and excellence of British crime-drama videos. The emphasis on The two previous tales is in the mystery itself. I was extremely disappointed with "Above Suspicion, Set one". The three stars are for the production itself, not the storyline.
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on June 27, 2014
Pretty bad. Maybe because I've just finished watching season I of "The Fall," a series that covers ground similar to "Above Suspicion." But this show struck me as shallow, implausible and gratuitously grisly. The acting in AS is not good: even Ciarán Hinds seems to be coasting on bellowing. His performance is hollow. Kelly Reilly has a few moments, but in a climactic scene in the first episode her performance consists almost entirely of her casting big sad blue eyes upwards and whispering. There's nobody home. The story lines, too, are trite and cliche ridden. Only actor Jason Durr, as a film star under suspicion, succeeds with a memorable performance that is both daring and original.
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on July 11, 2012
Too violent & bloody. Ciarin Hinds & Kelly are good, as expected, but themes and graphics seem contrived to shock the viewer as their primary objective.
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on April 14, 2014
Lynda La Plante continues her astounding output as a writer of the finest crime dramas seen on television. ABOVE SUSPICION is even more impressive because it is based on her own novels. This first box set of five episodes (Set 1 is two episodes and Set 2 is three) is thoroughly gripping, impeccably produced and flawlessly acted.

Never one to shy away from gritty realism, La Plante outdoes herself here, especially in the drama based on her novel the THE RED DAHLIA. It’s as graphic as anything I’ve ever seen and very disturbing. Fortunately Ms. La Plante also understands how to tell a morality tale as well, for without a satisfying conclusion, audiences would otherwise be overwhelmed by the unrelenting bleakness of her stories. That is not the case here, and although women are victims, they are also the victors.

Speaking of women, it is central to every La Plante creation that strong women characters feature prominently in the stories. While there is no doubt she has done much to advance the cause of feminism, La Plante is no soapbox advocate. She simply writes good stories, and her female protagonists are simply part of those stories. No preaching, just good storytelling. There is much to be said for this in light of the political agenda found in so many programs today.

Ciaran Hinds plays the gruff DCI James Langton and he brings a weight and depth to the show that keeps the story’s intensity at a high pitch throughout. He is perfectly balanced opposite gorgeous and wonderfully talented Kelly Reilly, who has been making a splash as Jude Law’s Dr Watson’s wife in the first two Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes films. The supporting cast is excellent and the style of the show, with its use of frequent contrapuntal cutting between scenes is very effective and distinct from the visual style of some of her other shows, most notably TRIAL & RETRIBUTION, which used split screen to great effect.

La Plante’s stamp is all over this series and that means, among other things, lots of DVD extras. As a producer, La Plante knows that audiences want to know what goes on behind the scenes, and when spectacularly graphic makeup effects are created, it’s fun to see how they are made. Such features remind us that this is not reality, but an entertainment and, although shocking and brutal aspects are invariably part of a La Plante drama, we can rest assured that no one was really hurt and it is all make-believe.

Acorn Media, that fast-growing distributor of quality British programming, has again provided closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing, ensuring that their ever-widening audience excludes no one. It never hurts either, as the dialogue is often sharp and the plots are intricate. Not to mention the various British accents. Captioning ensures we don’t miss a word. There’s a reason Acorn Media has recently obtained the majority rights to Agatha Christie’s collected works. They want to do things right. By choosing another Lynda La Plante opus, they have once again demonstrated their penchant for choosing quality programming.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 16, 2013
I have some sympathy with those reviewers who complain of the scenes of slaughtered victims in the first set of this series -- at its heart, it's a solid police procedural, with an effective performance by Ciaran Hinds, always an engaging actor to watch, and after being wasted in the "Tinker, Tailor" movie (not given enough to do), here he comes across as a take-charge, impatient, but not insensitive man, although I would note that in the second story ("The Red Dahlia" Disc 2), he is made to come across as a bit of a bully, which was not the case in the first story. The young prize-winning stage actress Kelly Reilly is the rookie foil to Hinds's experienced DCI. She's Anna Travis, supposedly the daughter of a policemen much respected by Hinds's character, James Langton, and in the first story (Disc 1), she makes all the rookie mistakes but shows good intuition and comes through in the end. I thought Kelly Reilly was a bit pallid in the role at first. She's a pretty woman, but her face isn't particularly expressive, so we'll have to see how she gets used to working for cameras. It's my impression that her "Red Dahlia" performance was a bit stronger, but maybe I was just getting used to her. Neither her character nor Hinds's is given much of a backstory -- so it's all on the surface, and presumably by the time we get to episodes 4, 5, and 6 or so, the earlier episodes will be the backstory. Nothing wrong with that -- I look forward to see how Langton manages to negotiate his affair with his boss ( a very good looking woman with a chilly efficiency) while obviously being drawn erotically to someone junior to him.

Violent and ugly imagery is especially prevalent in the first story (Disc 1), and it's hard to see that we need all of it. The fact that the victims are women makes it all a bit voyeuristic too, in an ugly way. The police work is so routine -- without car chases and shootings or even fights -- that maybe the director thought the basic plot of solving the crimes too tame. We're given the disturbing images mainly as flashback -- as memories of or imaginings of a series of crimes committed over a number of years, and yes, we do understand that the perpetrator (who thinks himself "above suspicion") is a really bad dude. Granted that some scenes and images might put some people off, the film is nonetheless effectively directed and shot, and the ensemble cast around the leads in the operations room is just fine.

It's interesting that both of the first two stories in this series focus on serial killings of women, so the sense that "we must get him before he kills again" is a strong motivator of suspense. It's also interesting that in different ways the bad guys meet their ends before justice can be fully served through normal channels in courts of law ( and the cases are watertight). Britain has no capital punishment, and I wonder if the genre requires that particularly nasty serial killers have to die before trial. One used to hear phrases like "Hanging's too good for him," and people who feel that about such criminals would certainly feel that life in prison is FAR too good for them! I'll be watching Set 2 (presumably the third story in the series) to see how plots and characters develop. I say it's worth watching, but just be aware that some of it requires a strong stomach.
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on June 7, 2013
I bought this because I like the books and was not disappointed. Excellent casting. It is a bit graphic, but so are the stories.
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