Stephen Tompkinson in a scene from the TV mini series DCI Banks. Supplied by BBC.
Stephen Tompkinson in a scene from the TV mini series DCI Banks. Supplied by BBC.

Mystery unfolds

AFTER the success of the UK two-part mini series DCI Banks: Aftermath, author Peter Robinson's working-class detective returns in six new episodes.

Pitted against ratings juggernaut Spooks, Aftermath was a surprise hit for ITV with both parts out-rating BBC's Spooks.

Based on the books Playing With Fire, Friend of the Devil and Cold is the Grave, the new series follows Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks in three new murder mysteries.

Star Stephen Tompkinson says Playing With Fire picks up where Aftermath left off.

"Banks went on holiday to Acapulco by himself just to get his head together, to have a bit of quiet time," he said.

"When he arrives back he is sent to report on a fire on a canal boat where a victim has been found inside.

"But there's also second boat next to the original one, which was so badly burnt it sinks to the bottom. A day later a body rises to the surface so they don't know which (body) was the intended victim.

"That's always the beauty of Peter Robinson stories - he seems to have two stories concurrently that run along parallel lines. He's a very clever writer."

Tompkinson, who also stars in the hit UK series Wild at Heart, says he relished the opportunity to play Banks again.

"He's the person you want on your case, not on your back," he said. "He's very dogged, very determined. There's a quote that Peter (Robinson) put in one of the books that Banks always keeps with him, a quote by John Donne the poet: 'any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind'.

"He's very committed and does take any crime very personally. He's what you want in a policeman and he won't break the rules to get convictions. Sometimes he gets to the wrong conclusions, which is why he relies on the team around him so much."

In the new series, keen but inexperienced detective sergeant Annie Cabbot has joined Banks' team.

"She's a little too over enthusiastic. She's trying to run before she can walk as it were," he said. "Banks has to be a bit more of the boss this time towards her. There was a moment in Aftermath where they got quite close to having a kiss. He has to be more professional this time, guiding her through the correct police procedurals."

Splitting his time between Wild at Heart and DCI Banks has been a career high for Tompkinson.

"Half the year I get to frolic around South Africa with wild animals and pretend to be the gorgeous happy lovable vet and then I get to play his grumpier serious brother who's in the police force. As an actor it's beautiful to have so much variety."

DCI Banks - UKTV - Sundays at 7.30pm Qld, 8.30pm NSW from January 15.

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