Real life these days seems to provide the best mystery tales of all. And there's a doozy told Friday night in The Woman Who Wasn't There, the 8-9:30 p.m. ET encore of the film that earlier this week delivered the highest ratings ever for cable's Investigation Discovery channel.
It's a 9/11-centered suspenser that's thankfully far from ID's usual focus on deadly women, killer trials, stalkers, motives and murders.
And documentarian Angelo Guglielmo (The Heart of Steel) does a bang-up job of letting his story tell itself, in first-person testimony that gradually unfolds the circumstances behind a World Trade Center survivor who wasn't -- sorry, but the title's the spoiler, not me.
Knowing the kicker going in doesn't make this gem any less suspenseful. Like TV's classic Columbo, the greatness lies not in the destination but in the getting there.
It's WTC survivors who mostly provide witness to the impressive support provided by Tania Head, whose tale of crawling burned from the skyscrapers' remains made her subsequent unending efforts on behalf of other survivors all the more impressive. She made friends, she influenced people; she turned surly, she melted down when reporters sought interviews.
Guglielmo benefits from having inside access to Head herself, who had asked him to make a film about survivors for which Head wasn't intending to include her own story. But he pressed her to get it, and now we've all got a close-up look into the eyes of a very odd, perhaps dangerous, certainly disturbed person.
To that, the filmmaker adds so many more other interviews, of just the right tone at just the right time to give his narrative fascinating shape. Adding color are animated illustrations [like the one topping this column] of the moments being described, which become clues of their own, drawing us under the spell of Guglielmo's sly storytelling.
You may know this news-based tale already. But if not, don't Google now. Let it wash over you with its sudden sidetrips to foreign lands and its smart pacing, moodiness and reveals.
And stay tuned -- there's a final twist, one that heightens the mystery and makes us wish ID's other "crime" chronicles were half as impressive.
(The Woman Who Wasn't There also airs Friday at 11 p.m. ET and Saturday at 6 a.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.)