Anthony Horowitz is not only one of our best living writers but also one of our finest observers of Englishness. Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders might not be groundbreaking, but they have become staples of homemade TV, full of eccentric, middle-class melodrama, which sells nicely abroad. So New Blood (BBC One, Thursdays, 9pm) feels like a self-conscious attempt to do something different. Yes it’s another crime thriller.
But in this one the heroes are the face of multi-racial London: an Iranian and a Pole. The villains are faceless corporations. This is Agatha Christie for the Age of Corbyn. A group of backpackers who met in India have returned home to England and are now dropping dead. In a nice twist, the two policemen on the trail of the crooks actually work on two different squads and don’t know they’re investigating the same crime. When they do figure out the connection, there’s some old-fashioned “odd couple” humour that grates. But the acting here of Ben Tavassoli and Mark Strepan is so natural that we’re inclined to forgive it.
What isn’t natural is the London of Horowitz’s vision. Is this really what we’ve become? Possibly. It’s a shimmering futurescape of glass towers populated by young professionals who wear plastic lanyards rather than ties. Strepan’s character goes to a corporate event that turns out to be a swingers’ party, and when invited for a casual encounter upstairs he hardly blinks. Tavassoli’s cop is asked by his partner if he believes in God – and he replies in the negative, disavowing even the description of “Muslim”.
The only hints of poverty are that one of our heroes can’t afford his rent and the other is still living with his parents in his late 20s. Another character spies on her colleagues in exchange for … a free flat. The gritty – but real – London of my youth is apparently gone. In its place is a boho capital where the biggest injustice is the property prices.
That, and the existence of corporations that are far too successful to be ethical. I share Horowitz’s distrust of rich men in high offices – an ancient prejudice that suggests little has changed after all.