After last week’s less than stellar effort, which barely came to grips with its plot, let alone the implications of the death of Bethany, this episode opens with two indignities, when a terrified woman is chased through a dark forest by unseen assailants, and is then found dead by an ancient woodsman stopping to have a wee.
NB: Spoilers ahoy!
Old codger Monkford recognizes the girl as Alex Gartside, a biology student housesitting at a local mansion in the Gilswick Valley. Vera’s flummoxed to find the garden fitted with a moth trap, signs of a struggle in the house, and another corpse. It’s all very X-Files – for some reason the lights don’t work, and Alex has left a collection of very gothic artwork.
Alex seems to have had a history of bipolar disorder, but why was she catching moths? – it wasn’t part of her degree.
Groundsman Benton (Aden Gillett) and neighbours Brian (Jack Ellis) and Lorraine Hallam (Tanya Franks) seem dodgy, but don’t move in the same circles as the dead man, who is identified as local loser, Martin Neilsen.
New DC Hicham Cherradi (Noof McEwan), as is traditional, puts his foot in it with Vera, and gets put on vehicle checks for his error; Vera, despite having slept in her Land Rover, soon figures that Alex invited Neilsen to the house, then fled and was killed by a car.
Neilson’s pokey house contains lots of moth-catching equipment – shades of Silence of the Lambs – and a dotty old lady, Neilson’s mother. Vera visits the ex-offenders charity Neilson was working for, and Aiden concludes that he was a creepy sex pest; Vera doesn’t necessarily concur.
Barmaid Lizzie and local tearaway Jason are implicated by phone and CCTV evidence, but he reckons he was badger-baiting; and old codger Monkford’s daughter Susan is found hanged, her car damaged, suggesting her guilt in the death of Alex.
Cherradi detects a fraud going on at Neilson’s charity, and employee Shirley claims that Neilson caught her at it, and blackmailed her for information on ex-offenders. So was he after someone from the young offenders institute he spent time at? And was Alex helping him because her brother died there?
It turns out that dodgy neighbor Brian Hallam was in charge and groundsman Benton was a warder when Neilson and Alex’s brother were in the institute; Benton was the target of Alex’s trap, and he admits that he confronted Neilson and killed him, he claims in self-defence.
There’s a great sense of doom and foreboding to this episode, emphasized by the desolate grandeur of the landscape. But there are some bizarre incongruities – why is the Gilswick house so vast and gloomy? Where did the Hallams get the money to buy their prime spot? And why exactly was Alex catching moths? – just to provide an appropriate metaphor?
Vera seems to be more together his week than she was last week – we don’t see her drinking, but then we don’t see her sleeping either. Perhaps when Aiden’s child arrives it will give her something to help ground herself; she certainly needs it. Another night in the Land Rover might be the death of her.