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'Dublin Murders' Debuts on Starz
November 10, 2019  | By David Hinckley

Starz has a good track record with "grim" and "intense," two words that apply nicely to the new series Dublin Murders.

Dublin Murders, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Starz, adapts a pair of Tana French crime mysteries that explore the friction between contemporary and traditional Irish culture while two cops try to figure out who has been sadistically killing children.

The eight-episode series translates well to television, thanks to writer Sarah Phelps.

The story begins in 2006 when an archeology team discovers the body of 13-year-old Catherine Devlin, an aspiring ballerina. She has been killed rather brutally, then positioned in peaceful repose atop a partly excavated altar.

Her death stirs up disturbing memories in her Irish village. Twenty-one years earlier, two children disappeared in the local woods and were never found, raising the unsettling specter that a psychotic killer could have belatedly returned.

Catherine's case is assigned to homicide investigators Rob Reilly (Killian Scott), who is somewhat experienced, albeit young, and Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene), who was recently transferred to homicide from another police division.

While there has been some rumbling around the stationhouse that Cassie is a diversity addition, she seems unfazed. Rob is clearly comfortable with her, and all early indications are that she got the gig on merit. She has good instincts and a solid, professional manner.

The story could get pretty routine, of course, if there weren't a few more wrinkles than that. And sure enough, there are, starting with the fact that Cassie and Rob evidently share a backstory that isn't immediately spelled out for viewers.

This gives an intriguing edge to Rob, who we gradually realize isn't entirely the by-the-books cop he might seem at first. Cassie doesn't need further edge since Greene infuses her with mysterious intrigue from our first encounter. The toughness is real enough, but so are some of the nuances behind it.

Dublin Murders is not, in any case, a two-person show. Reilly and Maddox work with a web of other law enforcement personnel, particularly when Catherine's murder triggers concerns about the earlier killings.

The extended family includes their immediate supervisor, O'Kelly (Conleth Hill), who's profane and annoying and also seems to be a reasonably smart cop.

Catherine's family also figures prominently from the moment they show widely varying and sometimes odd reactions after Reilly and Maddox break the terrible news to them.

The first episode of Dublin Murders requires the audience to pay attention since it throws viewers into a flurry of multiple events in different timeframes.

Clearly, they will all come together, but viewers have to do some of the work themselves in sorting it all out.

Dublin Murders also draws our attention to small details without always spelling out what they mean.

When Cassie sees a bottle on a table, or Rob has a stilted conversation with his landlady, they don't tell us what they're thinking. We have to deduce, which in some shows becomes simply annoying, but in this one makes the viewer feel more invested.

Dublin Murders would work fine as a basic whodunit. Add a sheaf of strong characters, not all of them sympathetic, and Starz has plucked another winner.

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