"Thicker Than Water" is a gripping, quick-moving murder mystery that puts most U.S.-generated productions to shame. Its billing as a psychological thriller may put off viewers interested in this rollicking whodunit.

“Thicker Than Water” is a gripping, quick-moving murder mystery that puts most U.S.-generated productions to shame. Its billing as a psychological thriller may put off viewers interested in this rollicking whodunit. Part murder mystery, part nighttime soap and part cop drama, the story sails along as it creates several tangential storylines just as interesting as the main plot.

Convinced her life would be much better if she were married to her sister’s husband, Debbie (Theresa Russell) orchestrates a series of mishaps — including the murder of her twin (also played by Russell) — in an effort to improve the quality of her miserable existence.

Russell is equally convincing as the conniving Debbie and the do-gooder Jo, who is an extremely tolerant sort and handles her sister’s penchant for lunacy in stride. Debbie’s hubby Paul (Robert Pugh), a beleaguered, alcoholic police detective, deals as best he can with his wife’s envy of Jo’s ideal life, and of Jo’s well-heeled husband Sam (Jonathan Pryce).

The jealousy is exacerbated when Jo becomes pregnant, something Debbie and Paul have been attempting — ultimately reducing the process to almost clinical terms — for three years.

Paul’s tough-talking blue-collar copper goes against the mold and metaphorically separates the couples, serving as a wedge between the two sisters.

While the twin-sister angle — they allegedly have a telepathic connection — is an integral story element, it’s wisely not used to excess. Debbie, clearly far nuttier than Jo, is considered as a potential killer, but the lack of confirmation and the surfacing of other likely suspects keeps the connection tenuous, and results in a heart-pounding finale.

Scripter Trevor Preston’s story glides flawlessly start to finish, and director Marc Evans sucessfully communicates the dread and fear of the players, while capturing the rolling countryside and the steely grayness of a town caught up in the killings.

Thicker Than Water

Sun. (10), 8-11 p.m., A&E

Production

Filmed in the United Kingdom by BBC Wales for BBC1 in association with BBC Enterprises and Arts & Entertainment Network. Executive producer, Ruth Caleb; producer, Sheryl Crown; director, Marc Evans; writer, Trevor Preston.

Crew

Designer, Steve Talbot; sound, Richard Dyer; music, Julian Wastall, Daemion Barry.

Cast

Cast: Theresa Russell, Jonathan Pryce, Robert Pugh, Catherine Neilson, Richard Lynch, Martin Troakes, Menna Trussler, Grahame Brennan Fox, Nicholas McGaughey, Peter Doran, Rachel Sanders, Lisa Palfrey, Rhys Parry Jones, Hugh Thomas, Zoe Groves, Kirsty Groves, Stephen Lyons, Alan David, Sion Robert, San Dastar, Crispin Letts, James Rourke, Dino Loddo, Jack Walters, Meredith Kratzer.
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