We’ve become a nation of Hercule Poirots, according to Line Of Duty’s Martin Compston. But he reckons his latest TV crime drama will have even the best sleuths among us exercising our little grey cells to the limit.

‘Traces will keep people guessing,’ says Martin, best known for his role as DI Steve Arnott in the anti-corruption police drama which returns later this year. ‘And it has to. With the amount of crime dramas out there you need to be cleverer. 

‘People have become amateur detectives and want to figure out who the killer is from the start.’

Line Of Duty's Martin Compston says his new murder thriller Traces is so clever it even baffled the cast. Pictured: Kathy, Sarah, Emma and Daniel in the drama

Line Of Duty's Martin Compston says his new murder thriller Traces is so clever it even baffled the cast. Pictured: Kathy, Sarah, Emma and Daniel in the drama

Line Of Duty’s Martin Compston says his new murder thriller Traces is so clever it even baffled the cast. Pictured: Kathy, Sarah, Emma and Daniel in the drama

Martin believes it’s not just the viewers who enjoy speculating on the identity of TV murderers either. ‘We even do it on set when we’re filming. People are always coming up with theories as to what might have happened. 

‘That’s why you need an intelligent script where the murderer is carefully concealed, and Amelia Bullmore has produced precisely that here.’

The show, which is getting a primetime run on the BBC after airing on Alibi a year ago, was written by ex-Coronation Street actress Amelia from an idea by crime writer Val McDermid, and Martin’s character Daniel McAfee turns up in episode two. 

He falls for the main character Emma Hedges (played by Molly Windsor, who starred in 2019 thriller Cheat), a lab technician at a university in Dundee who’s trying to discover who murdered her mother.

And that’s not the only death under the spotlight in Traces, which also stars Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser as Sarah Gordon, a professor of forensic chemistry at the university, and Gregory’s Girl actor John Gordon Sinclair as Emma’s wayward father Drew. 

The show is getting a primetime run on the BBC after airing on Alibi a year ago. Pictured: A forensics team at work in Traces

The show is getting a primetime run on the BBC after airing on Alibi a year ago. Pictured: A forensics team at work in Traces

The show is getting a primetime run on the BBC after airing on Alibi a year ago. Pictured: A forensics team at work in Traces

The charred remains of three people are discovered in the burnt-out shell of Secrets nightclub in the first episode, and at least one of them appears to have been murdered.

Martin says his character is racked with guilt over the deaths. ‘Daniel was the foreman on a building job refurbishing the club, but he was far too young for the responsibility and unqualified. 

‘It’s made him a bit mixed up, with a lot of guilt about how the fire seems to have got out of control. But unlike some of the characters in Traces, he’s actually a nice guy.’

The romance with Emma helps Daniel take his mind off his guilt, and their relationship develops as she moves closer to finding her mother’s killer. Key to solving the crime – and key to the drama as a whole – is forensic evidence. 

It is a case study in a course she’s taking that pushes Emma to follow her instincts about her mother’s death, and she starts to unravel the science with the help of Professor Gordon and her colleague Professor Kathy Torrence (Jennifer Spence).

‘Put simply, it was important that we knew what we were doing, or at least looked as if we did,’ says Laura Fraser. ‘We went on a field trip to the University Of Central Lancashire, which specialises in the kind of work undertaken by people like Sarah. A forensic anthropologist there answered all our questions.’

For Molly Windsor, her first taste of forensics was an eye-opener. ‘It’s a completely different way of thinking,’ she says. ‘The people we met were so pragmatic, whereas our career is led by imagination and emotion. To learn how to deal with facts and numbers is very different, but I have an even greater respect for those people now.’

They are just the people, in fact, to help her work out whodunnit.

Traces, Monday, 9pm, BBC1. 

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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