Those hoping for a compelling mystery set against a colourful local backdrop won’t be disappointed by The Marlow Murder Club.

After months of waiting, the TV adaptation of Robert Thorogood’s murder-mystery novel set in picturesque, riverside Buckinghamshire will air on the Drama channel tonight. The Free Press was invited to a preview of the first of two episodes in the series, so read on to get a taste of what you can expect come 8pm this evening.

While it’s very easy for a local audience to be preoccupied with spotting the familiar places – and faces – frequenting The Marlow Murder Club series, it does much more than act purely as an advertisement for the town.

Deviating from its source material in clever and effective ways - unsurprisingly, since the screenplay was written entirely by author and Death in Paradise creator Robert Thorogood - the TV adaptation succeeds especially in fleshing out the central characters of Judith, Becks and Suzie, our crime solving trio, as convincing and idiosyncratic characters who are easy to root for.

Based on The Marlow Murder Club novel published in 2021, the plot follows retired architect turned crossword creator Judith Potts (Samantha Bond) as she recruits two new friends, Becks the vicar’s wife (Cara Horgan) and empty nester Suzie (Jo Martin) to help solve the mysterious death of her neighbour across the Thames.

It is well-acted by all, especially Natalie Dew’s Detective Sergeant Tanika Malik – the hard-working straight man to the eccentric sleuthing trio – and feels like a highly-stylised and colourful slice of life in Marlow, packed with distinctive and humorous characters who manage never to veer into caricature.

Bucks Free Press:

READ MORE: Everything we know about The Marlow Murder Club TV series - airing THIS week

Each of the three central women is underestimated by those around them in their own way, and these struggles against expectation are also broadly but effectively sketched against the town’s backdrop in quirky and memorable ways. Becks dodges an incorrigible church-going gossip by hiding in a cupboard, Suzie pulls out all the stops to welcome her daughter back from a summer with her dad and Judith salutes local fisherman as she swims nude in the Thames.

Although it is not by any means its sole purpose, the TV series is also the finest brochure for the town that it could be, filmed across Marlow last summer and painting Higginson Park, the High Street and the Thames in warm sunlight and easy charm in almost every scene. 

Not especially dark in its first instalment, The Marlow Murder Club serves best as an introduction to the main players in its Agatha Christie-esque universe and, if Thorogood’s hopes aren’t dashed, we may see many more seasons of Judith, Suzie and Becks investigating the murky goings-on below their town’s scenic surface.

Bucks Free Press:

Speaking at a private screening of the first episode, held at the Everyman Cinema in Marlow last night (March 6), Thorogood said he had enjoyed writing the screenplay, especially in the creative licence he was given to make changes to the original text.

“There’s a storyline about a gun (in the show) and one about a brick bring thrown through a window that aren’t in the book. When I was writing it, I thought ‘I’m getting a bit bored now – let’s have somebody throw a brick through a window.

“In a book, that kind of thing would only work up to a point, but on telly, that smash is so exciting.”

The Marlow Murder Club will air in two parts on the Drama channel and UKTV tonight, March 6, and tomorrow, March 7, at 8pm.