Simisola [1996]

A particularly gritty and tough episode from Ruth Rendell's Inspector Reg Wexford series, Simisola begins with the bearish Scots detective receiving some good medical news from his Nigerian physician. Unfortunately, Wexford can't do the same when the doctor and his wife report the disappearance of their daughter. Seemingly related murders of two women, and the severe beating of a third, in Wexford's Sussex country town of Kingsmarkham do nothing to clarify what happened to the missing girl and, much to Wexford's dismay, exacerbate racist tensions rumbling beneath the investigation. Actor George Baker, who has been playing the civilized and often unflappable Wexford in television dramas since 1988, is wonderful here, counterpointing the detective's natural politesse with droll asides and clipped impatience with self-important witnesses. Rendell's attack on a loophole in British immigration laws (essentially sanctioning modern slavery) is startling but does not overwhelm Simisola's entertaining police procedural. --Tom Keogh Modernity's classic conflict with the primitive wild is ablaze in Road Rage, an enthralling story of bloodshed in the battle between trees and pavement. Based on a Ruth Rendell novel, the story concerns a protracted fight by pro-environment extremists to stop a road from being built through a forest near Kingsmarkham. Detective Chief Inspector Wexford (George Baker) looks on in dismay as eco-terrorists and local bailiffs beat and maim one another, but he becomes directly involved when a weird series of daytime kidnappings--including the disappearance of his wife, Dora--are linked to a militant group. As police procedurals go, Road Rage is a model of tea-sipping restraint: neither Wexford nor his close colleague, Mike Burden (Christopher Ravenscroft), ever loses his professional demeanor despite personal involvement in the case. Adapted for the screen by Baker, Road Rage is most interesting for its startling counterpoint between criminal monstrosity and heroic decency. --Tom Keogh

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