Luther. Not Martin.

I had one of those uncomfortable epiphanies a couple of weeks ago: I am getting old enough to have senior moments. On Sunday night, at 9:45 PM, my Blackberry gave a reminder beep and a window popped up that read: “Luther BBC America 10:00 PM.” I had no recollection whatsoever of entering that notation in my calendar. That’s much worse, to my mind, than forgetting the entry until it popped up — I mean, what are reminders for, other than to remind? — and then thinking, “oh yeah, I wanted to see that.” No, this was like one of those Philip K. Dick stories where the Joe from the future sends a note to Joe in the past, like, “Sell short on Simon & Schuster on December 1!” I had no idea what Luther even was. Anyway, I need to thank whichever of my personalities, present or future, wrote the memo because Luther should be required viewing for anyone who loves crime fiction.

Luther is an unrelentingly grim and dark psychological crime drama about a London homicide detective who is, as it happens, unrelentingly grim and dark. The lead role of Luther is played by Idris Elba, who was so riveting in The Wire. Elba plays the role just right, all frowns and sudden, explosive anger at what he sees and what he has become, a cog missing a couple of teeth in a machine that no longer works. The criminals are scary-frightening, but Luther, who is supposed to represent the side of goodness and light, is more so, given his willingness to do whatever it takes to catch the murderer of the week. Last week he conducted an illegal search of a suspected serial killer’s living quarters and found a dead victim, a young mother who had been abducted from her home, in a freezer. Luther left her dead body as he found it so as not to alert the baddie that the law was onto him, in order to entrap him later. AGGHHH!!! Luther is also involved in a love rectangle of sorts. His wife has left him and taken up with someone else; at the same time a very smart, powerful and attractive woman who has more loose screws than Home Depot is trying desperately to seduce Luther, who meanwhile, was last seen having an affair with his own wife. As with the best of film, it chills and heats at once and by turns. The series is created by Neil Cross, who also has written several episodes of MI-5, now in its seventh season. Throw in the haunting theme music by Massive Attack and you’ve got an addictive hour. TiVo The Walking Dead on AMC and watch Luther instead. Cross, incidentally, is a fine crime fiction author in his own right, though way too little of his work is available in the States. Hopefully, that will change, and soon.

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What I’m reading: BURIAL by, uh, Neil Cross, BOX 21 by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom, and HYPOTHERMIA by Arnaldur Indridason. BURIAL is a nasty little tale of sins coming back to haunt the sinner; BOX 21 is a sordid, one-sit novel which concerns the sex trade in Sweden, among other things; and HYPOTHERMIA is the sixth of the Inspector Erlendur novels to be translated from the Islenka, brooding tale about an obsessive investigation of a suicide.. I’m bouncing back and forth amongst them all to the accompaniment of “Take It Easy On Kathy At Least She Can Dance” by Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch, played over and over. It sounds like a much younger Bob Dylan fronting the Velvet Underground & Nico.

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2 thoughts on “Luther. Not Martin.

  1. Luther is a genuinely frightening series, and I’m surprised it’s on in the U.S. My wife and I watched it when it originally aired on the BBC and I remember remarking to her, “There’s no way this is ever allowed to play uncut in the States.”

    The episode you described (with the woman in the freezer) might be the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on television (aside from the evening news, of course).

    It’s extremely well-written and Luther’s character is fantastic. I’ve heard they’re bringing him back for more, and I for one can’t wait. Lucy kicks ass, too, and is utterly, charmingly psychotic.

  2. I meant to watch Luther, but forgot to TIVO it and a couple of episodes went by before I remembered. I thought it was a true series and I didn’t want to come in late.

    There is far more good stuff on TV than ever in memory, and I miss a lot of it. I should really miss far more of it than I do.

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