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Tracking a killer

(Acorn TV)

Television

Tracking a killer

Manhunt portrays the human side of police work

Imagine Mister Rogers playing a criminal, or Sean Connery as a stay-at-home dad. Fans of the British series Doc Martin might be temporarily jarred to see Martin Clunes as a caring, empathetic police detective, but will soon lose themselves in Acorn TV’s three-part miniseries Manhunt.

Based on the memoirs of the real-life Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton (played by Clunes), Manhunt opens with a pedestrian discovering a body in the middle of Twickenham Park. The victim is Amélie Delagrange, a young French woman who had moved to London. Police looking for the killer find few clues, and Sutton is brought in to head up the investigation.

But police department rivalries get in the way of the work. Sutton’s wife Louise, who works for the Surrey Police force, warns him that such a high-profile case can make or unmake the investigator in charge. Louise’s boss is furious when Sutton tries to convince him that a murder case in Surrey may have connections to Delagrange’s killer. Still, Sutton persists and pushes his team to chase every lead.

The series masterfully portrays the human side of police work, but includes some vulgar language and occasional blasphemy. Sutton insists on personal and heartfelt communication with Delagrange’s parents: She was their only daughter, and the scenes of their grief are moving. As he interacts with the couple and accompanies them to Twickenham Park, we see a character much different from Doc Martin, infamous for his brutal and brusque communication with patients and friends.

Through dogged and plodding police work, Sutton’s team narrows its suspect list down to one, and discovers connections to other recent murder cases. Eventually, Sutton realizes that rivalries and lack of cooperation between departments and precincts are what have allowed his suspect to remain on the loose for so long. Delagrange’s parents accept his sincere apologies—delivered in person at their home in France—with grace.

Blinking back tears, Mr. Delagrange urges the detective: “What is important to us is that you carry on, and bring this evil man to justice.”