BBC audiobooks: detectives delight

The Inspector McLevy Mysteries.
The Inspector McLevy Mysteries.

TWO detective plays from the BBC Radio Crimes series have been released on CD - revealing the amazing diversity on offer.

We have a plot to kill Queen Victoria and the death of a judge in Victorian Scotland and, at the other extreme, modern-day burglaries in England’s stately homes involving an international gang.

A Kate Brannigan mystery.

A Kate Brannigan mystery.

However, both are headed by top quality actors and provide some exciting action.

Brian Cox is a renowned actor and has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters as well as on stage and TV.

He is a solid choice for the title role in the Inspector McLevy Mysteries, based on a real character.

In 1999 writer David Ashton was working on a TV play about Arthur Conan Doyle when he discovered the memoirs of one James McLevy, of Edinburgh, who is now thought to have been the inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes.

McLevy had a lofty view of his abilities and tracked down criminals like a blood hound.

However, he had a curious relationship with one Jean Brash, who ran a house where all manner of sin and temptation dwelled. The two seemingly had a mutual admiration.

Ashton wrote a one-off play about these characters which proved very popular..

Several series have followed, along with books and even the possibility of a TV play.

Siobhan Redmond is excellent at Jean Brash and other regulars are McLevy’s fellow officer Mulholland (Michael Perceval-Maxwell) and Ashton himself plays their boss Lt Roach.

This latest release is from 2000 and has two episodes - Servant of the Crown and The Picture of Innocence.

Ashton’s writing has made McLevy a complex character who fights for justice but who also sees the frailties of Man.

Anyone who hasn’t heard of McLevy before will be searching out more stories after hearing this release.

Val McDermid is a established crime novelist and has seen her characters hit the TV screens - such as in Wire in the Blood and A Place of Execution.

Another of her creations, Kate Brannigan, appears in Clean Break, which was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1998.

It stars the late Charlotte Coleman who tragically died after an asthma attack, leaving behind an impressive volume of work for one so young.

This story sees Brannigan running a security business in Manchester and being rung up in the early hours after a painting is stolen fron a client.

The fiesty private eye uses her contacts and skills to track down a particularly unpleasant gang behind the thefts.

Adding to the story is her on/off relationship with boyfriend Richard Barclay (John Lloyd Fillingham).

There’s plenty of excitement as Brannigan gets into various highly dangerous situations.

Both full cast audio dramatisations, plus hundreds more from the BBC back catalogue, are available at

Steve Payne