On go Vera’s wellies, as she jumps out of her Land Rover and into another murder case – this time a dead body in a slurry pit. Ah, don’t you love the smell of corpses in the morning? ‘You’ve been living in the city too long’ says Vera when sidekick Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty) complains about the stink.
Vera’s old mac takes the brunt of this rather smelly killing, and she’s none too happy with her young team when they drop their malodorous burden all over the shop as they retrieve him from the pit for the autopsy.
No sooner is this grim discovery made than two other immigrant farmworkers wanted for questioning go missing – one, Samir Ilic, a part-time taxi driver, apparently tops himself in his digs, while another with links to gun-running, Vlasic, goes AWOL – trying to skedaddle on a ferry from Tyneside Docks.
Here once again Healy betrays his inexperience alongside our old warhorse. No sooner have they booked Vlasic than his solicitor (who by, contrast, is doing his job well) gets him out of custody on the technicality that Healy failed to announce himself as a police officer before jumping on his prey in front of a port full of amazed witnesses. Oh, route one policing, Healy – get a grip!
Farmers Danny Pryor (Mark Bonnar) and his wife Karen seem more than a bit jittery about the death on their property – farms are after all very dangerous places in the usual run of things, especially in this day and age when casual labour is the norm. Maybe they are just more than a bit protective of their deaf son, Toby, who despite his disability seems pretty robust to us as he zips around the farm on his quad bike. He is home-schooled by his mother Karen, who has a background in teaching, however, I wouldn’t be confident about leaving my kids with this rather feckless and jumpy woman.
During her chat with the family, we learn a little about Vera’s hinterland – she has more than a passing knowledge of sign-language. This is going to serve her well in this case, it is clear.
The only person at the farm who is friendly and forthcoming is the Serbian farm manager Beqiri (Velibor Topic), although he claims not to have any idea about who the dead man could be – he’s gangmaster for the setup and picks up workers as and when needed, he tells the cops.
Slurry Man turns out to be Jack Reeves, a young traveller who – wouldn’t you know it – used to live with his community on land adjacent to the farm until the Pryor family evicted them in a classic case of ‘Git orf moi laaand!’
This potentially complicates things as police and travellers are not the best mix – however, Vera’s appearance and demeanour work for her when she is dealing with society’s underdogs, so although they don’t welcome Vera’s sidekicks too much, they relent under her more sympathetic questioning.
At the camp she quickly picks up a rapport with 16-year-old gipsy girl, Sigourney O’Brien (played by Aisling Franciosi – so memorable as the teenage temptress in The Fall) who denies that she knows much about Jack, but informs her that Reeves left under something of a cloud. And her dad Frank (Lee Ross), the group’s leader, is clearly nursing a big grievance against Jack for some reason.
Jack’s father, Billy Reeves (Mark Womack) says he’d thrown his son out for using drugs – however, he and his wife are not too clear about the details, murmuring something about heroin.
Turns out that Reeves had not been ousted by his parents for using drugs; he’d run out on his big fat gipsy wedding to Sigourney and apparently into the arms of his barman boyfriend at the local pub – coincidentally run by Danny Pryor’s brother Rob, who becomes another suspect.
When barman Ben tells Vera that Jack had found out something amazing, we know immediately that this is unlikely to be that he’s gay. He’s discovered a blood link beyond his gipsy camp, and when Vera and Healy find tiny fingerprints as well as those left by Sigourney’s dad, who should rock up at the site on his little bike, but Toby.
Deaf Toby’s father was in fact dead Jack, whose appearance had threatened to split up the Pryor family.
One of the most annoying aspects of British TV of recent years has been uninspired casting; hands up who had the marvellous Mark Bonnar down as the baddie? Since Psychoville, he’s been something of a go-to actor for playing the unhinged, in both comedy and drama. Well, big kudos for the casting director in this episode for pulling off a rare feat of misdirection. Yes, Bonnar was one of the first suspects to turn up, but once he’d been interviewed he was kept too much at the forefront of the action to be the killer.
So, the killer turning out to be Serbian gangmaster Beqiri does come as a surprise – the first killing was an accident as they argued over Jack’s splitting up the family, the second, that of Ilic, to cover up the first crime.
So this week we’ve learned not to get involved in a teacher-pupil relationship, and not to ask too many awkward questions of farming folk. You’ll end up in the slurry pit as sure as eggs is eggs.
Vera ends up getting her coat dry-cleaned – surely this would have been the ideal opportunity to chuck it out? But no, some things never change, and Vera’s stinky old coat seems to be one of them.
For our episode two review of Vera, go here