Saturday, 18 September 2010


New Tricks - It Smells of Books (Series Seven, Episode Two - BBC One). Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is barred from his noisy, disorderly local public library because he loudly expressed his disapproval. His wife Esther (Susan Jameson) takes him to the more old-fashioned, respectful and calm London Library.

When Brian discovers that a London Library membership card is listed among the personal affects of a cold case victim, he wastes no time volunteering to go undercover there. The Unsolved Crime And Open Case Squad (UCOS) reinvestigates the death of Dr Richard Symes, a university professor who died falling from the roof of his college three years ago.

« Silence! This is a bloody library! » (Brian)

Symes was the head of the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science, London Municipal University and an authority on Botanical sciences in the 18th century (« I've solved this already. He died of boredom. » - Gerry). This allows scriptwriter J.C. Wilsher to have some great fun on a territory which is familiar to him. Wilsher, actually Dr John Charles Wilsher, was a researcher at Lancaster University before becoming a writer and the creator of the acclaimed police drama Between the Lines (1992-1994).

« That's a bit posh. I've never met a rich widow.
- She doesn't own the business, she just works here.
- Well, maybe someday. » (Gerry and Sandra)

Brian Lane reinvents himself as "another member of the intelligentsia", much to his wife's irritation (« Why not go the whole hog and become a monk! You already got the haircut. ») as she's worrying about cracks (!) in their house. Jeremy Ventham, the college principal (Jonathan Cullen), claims that the victim was caught stealing valuable books and Symes'widow, Paula (Beth Goddard), is an antiquarian bookseller.

Gerry (Dennis Waterman) is skeptical: « Nicking library books is hardly a criminal conspiracy, is it? I can't see middle class professional people killing each other over it. » Especially when Brian says he's being spied on (« This is not about my medication! ») But a Traité des arbres fruitiers by Henri Duhamel was sold for 4.5 million dollars, explains Lane to his colleagues (« Worth nicking, eh? ») He finds the key of the enigma in a book of Edgar Allan Poe, there's a very medieval use of rolling stacks, and Jack Halford (James Bolam) wants to apply to a university as a mature student.

Directed superbly by veteran director Martyn Friend, It Smells of Books is a brilliant episode written with style and balance, where each main character has its share of great lines and moments. And it's always a treat to watch such talents like Anne Reid and David Ryall. New Tricks won the 9pm slot yesterday with 7 million viewers against ITV1's new chat show Paul O'Grady Live (3,5 million) (1). We'll see to what extent budget arbitration can allow more episodes of this quality in this 10-episode seventh series.

« You know, when we were still on the job, Brian applied to a university as a mature student.
- Really? What happened?
- They interviewed him.
- Oh. » (Jack and Sandra)


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