Cape Town - ITV Choice's new series Queens of Mystery - which premieres on the channel (DStv 123) on Tuesday 21 January at 20:00 has been described by one critic as Murder She Wrote crossed with Pushing Daisies and with a dash of Absolutely Fabulous.
It's that rare thing - a comedy-drama mystery series. The Stone sisters are three fifty-plus renowned murder mystery authors who live in the seemingly charming English village of Wildemarsh. But its peace and quiet is suddenly dashed by the murder of a famous author.
The Stones’ 28-year-old niece Matilda has just moved to Wildemarsh to join the local constabulary as a detective and wants to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance years earlier. But Matilda has no clue how full her hands are going to be with the rate of murders in the area.
Jumping in with their tips on solving the cases are Matilda's aunts, Cat, Beth, and Jane, masters of literary mayhem. Chief amongst them is Cat, a former rock'n' roller and now acclaimed detective novelist played by Julie Graham (of Shetland fame).
Graham talks about her character, her co-stars and the series:
Why do you think murder mystery shows endure and travel so well?
I think because they come from a literary background – it's in our DNA. When I was a child my mum always had Agatha Christie books around the house, and there were always murder mysteries on TV. It's one of the few things we can watch as family viewing. Mystery novels going back to Sherlock Holmes are so much a part of our culture.
And people want to be able to participate to work out who did it and experience the suspense and the payoff. And on top of that there's the human interest in the procedural – the police and detectives – and the suspense and payoff. There's no doubt about it, murder is universal and they’re fun to watch. They can be set in any time so they have that universal appeal, the twenties, the thirties and still have those properties, and so they are comforting.
You are one of four Stone women, the flamboyant, sexy, tough one!
She’s just terrific fun to play; she’s a rebel and a loner. Those characters are fun to play. They put on a front and she doesn’t care what people think about her. She’s outspoken, she was just great fun to play and I immediately related to her. I like that she’s no-nonsense. Don’t mess with her! but she is very loyal with a soft heart.
The series is essentially about women working together as family and problem solvers
When I was first sent the script for the project, something unusual happened, I looked at the script, and saw that the three sisters were all in their fifties. I couldn’t believe it. And even sometimes when you see a character as older, they end up casting a 35-year-old, so it was a joy to see scenes about authentic females in a family. We see them working together in an egalitarian way and they are careful of each other and smart, problem solvers. They don’t take any bullshit from anyone.
How did the wardrobe help your characterisation?
The costume designer Charlie Knight had a strong idea of the design of what these characters should look like. Cat has a bit of fun, used to be in a rock 'n' roll band so we had a lot of fun picking the costumes for her. I think with Cat there is no limit. She’s kind of natural and she’s the only one with a motorbike. She’s cool. Then we came up with her hair and it’s a nod to the 80s when it was big!
Was there good chemistry with your co-stars on the set?
I don’t think the show would have worked so well if we didn’t have good chemistry. We all got on terrifically well, our favourite parts were what we did together. We all got on very well, and we had these amazing guest stars. It was such terrific parts for older women.