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Murder, she wished

There's something very cosy about gruesome British murder mysteries like DCI Banks. They generally feature comfortable-looking people in crumpled jackets, poking the dark underbelly of small-town life against the dappled half-light of an English autumn.

UK television producers pride themselves on producing the kind of violent crime scenarios that people can gather the whole family around. "Oooh, I hope it's a child murder this week!" says granny. "Oh gran! You always hope for child murder!" teases little Jimmy. "Personally I'm holding out for an unconventional mix of murder, arson, child abuse and art-forgery." Over in the hard chair mum crosses her fingers and wishes hard: "Murder/suicide, murder/suicide," she thinks.

I suppose, in some ways, such cosy blood-thirst isn't that strange. Our forefathers gathered around fires to sing murder ballads of abandonment, infanticide and violent insurrection. All that's different now is that modern people prefer the passive enjoyment of the cathode-ray-tube (television).

Anyway, on last night's DCI Banks, Little Jimmy was getting his wish, because the scowling and crumpled detective Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) was investigating an unconventional mix of murder, arson, child-abuse and art forgery. It was the second of a grisly two-part story and the suspected villain was a lecherous racist toff, who practically danced around man-of-the-people Banks, singing "I probably did it, but you can't catch me because I'm posh!"

Then he made several complaints about poor Banks because he punched him in the face (it seemed reasonable to me while watching), causing Banks's superior to almost say: "You're off the case, Banks!" (but not in so many words).

Of course, lecherous, racist toff man was too obviously villainous. The real baddie was, as is usually the case in shows like this, the least obvious person (if I was a policeman, I'd instantly go and arrest the person who was least connected to my case; they're usually guaranteed to have done it) and before long he was ranting evilly like Dick Dastardly while setting fire to his house.

It was, to be fair, pretty gripping stuff. Banks ended up pulling a lady from a burning building; the lecherous, racist toff, though not an arsonist/murderer/art-forger, turned out to be a child abuser and got his comeuppance, and the real arsonist/ murderer/forger made a getaway in a sporty red run-around. It was grim, nail-biting fun for all the family.

Earlier in the day, crime-drama fans accidentally watching Alan Titchmarsh's Love Your Garden probably expected that amid the blooms and gardenias of middle-England, he'd eventually stumble across a decomposing corpse (going by the crime-rate in rural English towns on telly, it's probably only a matter of time).

The nearest he came to a crime scene, however, was when interrogating a chap called Edwin about his rose garden and ornamental gewgaws (a cutesy robin on a spike and a jolly hedgehog). The producers clearly thought it charming and funny that Edwin's wife Pamela took "a backseat to his beloved blooms" but as she wearily recounted how she couldn't tell Edwin anything important in the garden (because he wouldn't listen) and Alan chuckled and guffawed at it all, it began to look like she had the perfect motive for a DCI Banks-style murder (the murder weapon would probably be a ceramic animal on a spike).

Later in this rose-themed episode, Alan did disappear (for a while), as Laetitia Maklouf explained how to make rose-water through the medium of side-long glances, and blokey chef Valentine Warner engaged in a bit of a bromance with a man who specialised in edible rose-by-products. "The manliest crisp of them all," said Valentine, as he nibbled on crystallised rose-petals and made a chilli/rose-petal barbecue paste. "The most romantic!" chipped in his rose-crystallising pal ("Murder/suicide!" hoped mum, sitting on the hard chair with her fingers crossed).

DCI Banks hhhii

Love Your Garden hhhii