Clearly, someone at the BBC has been reading Crime Fiction Lover. In July we picked out five of the best Australian crime shows for you and news has arrived that our number one choice, Mystery Road, begins airing on BBC Four at 9pm on Saturday 22 September. ABC TV’s series will bring dusty Outback rural noir right into into UK living rooms.
Set in the fictional town of Patterson, Mystery Road opens with a vehicle abandoned on a cattle station. Its two occupants seem to have disappeared into the burning hot desert. Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) arrives to investigate and quickly finds himself clashing with the three officers comprising the town’s police force – particularly Senior Sergeant Emma James (Judy Davis). Together they set out to find the two young men, but instead they find a buried secret that threatens to tear the small community apart. It’s a secret that someone has already killed for, and there’s every sign that they’ll kill again.
Swan soon sees that secrets and lies cut right to the heart of Patterson, involving not only the police force and the cattle station that employs the majority of the townspeople, but also James’ family, the families she’s come into contact with, and those in power who run the town. The programme is notable for its exploration of aboriginal issues in Australia, and delves into the conflicts of the past when parts of the country were settled for farming. Mystery Road is based on the first of two films by director and writer Ivan Sen. The second story, Goldstone, will see Jay Swan investigating the disappearance of a young woman in a mining town. It begins on Saturday 12 October, following on directly from Mystery Road.
Geographically Mystery Road couldn’t be further from the year’s other top crime shows such as The Bridge IIII, Cardinal and Hidden, with their cooler climates. This is clear right from the opening shot of an empty ute, slowly idling under a sky blanketed with stars. The series is characterised by long tracking shots and birds eye camera angles, with a heat haze that shimmers across the screen. You can feel the warmth of the dry desert and the dust that billows from the cattle stations and gravel roads around Kununurra, where the series was filmed.
Aussie rural noir has been hot on the bookshelves as well lately, with Jane Harper’s The Dry and Force of Nature making bestseller lists, and Chris Hammer’s Scrublands also taking readers to the dry and the desolation of outback Australia.
The six-episode series first aired in Australia beginning on 3 June 2018, gaining audiences of up to 600,000. BBC Four will show the episodes shotgun on Saturday nights over three weeks.