'London Kills' writer Paul Marquess on creating a dark murder mystery, minus the gore and graphic violence

Having done some spectacular work in popular shows like Brookside, The Bill, Family Affairs, Hollyoaks and Crime Stories, Marquess believes his audience loves a twisted tale


                            'London Kills' writer Paul Marquess on creating a dark murder mystery, minus the gore and graphic violence

Acorn TV's first ever murder mystery show, 'London Kills' has the right to brag about a lot of things, other than its stellar cast. There's thrill, there are complicated, twisted, staged murders, but most importantly there's tension - and thankfully not the sexual kind yet, that the genre's shows have been seasoned with, in the past - all of it making for quite the standout among other shows in its genre.

But what the show also packs aplenty, is crisp, impeccably nuanced writing that from the very get-go creates an aura of something far more wicked than what meets the eye. Be it the main characters, who are all detectives, yet couldn't be more different from each other, or be it the plot revolving around a new murder with each episode - there's always that multilayered eeriness about what awaits us, and for that, we have writer Paul Marquess to thank.

Having done some spectacular work in popular shows like 'Brookside', 'The Bill', 'Family Affairs', 'Hollyoaks', 'Crime Stories', and more recently 'Suspects', it is no surprise Marquess was the mastermind behind the compact plot of 'London Kills' coming together.

One look at how its episodic murders and the serialized plot of the lead detective's wife going missing is connected, speaks volumes about Marquess' affinity for the genre, and he reassured us that his love for "stand-alone crime procedurals" is what worked as the driving inspiration behind 'London Kills.'

"I really like an episode where there's a beginning, a middle, and end of the story," Marquess said in an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), adding that "nobody's making them at the moment. And then it struck me, there's a really big appetite internationally for crime-of-the-week shows." Channeling this idea to Acorn TV, Marquess insisted 'London Kills' was the idea he had in his mind all along - that is a murder-a-week show based in London.

Add to that his background and the several cop shows he has worked on before, and voila - what we have is the latest Acorn TV original, starring 'Britannia' star Hugo Speer as lead detective DI David Bradford and Trust Me’s Sharon Small as DS Vivienne Cole. Joining the two of them are Bailey Patrick as DC Rob Brady and Tori Allen-Martin as new detective Billie Fitzgerald.

The official synopsis of the series describes it as "The world’s most exciting city is the backdrop for each of the murders investigated by an elite murder squad. This specialist group is headed by hugely experienced Detective Inspector David Bradford (Hugo Speer). He has just come back to work after compassionate leave – his wife has been missing for three months. David’s team comprises of ambitious Detective Sergeant Vivienne Cole (Sharon Small) who plays by her own rules, seasoned crime-solver Detective Constable Rob Brady (Bailey Patrick) and inexperienced Trainee Detective Constable Billie Fitzgerald (Tori Allen-Martin)."

'London Kills' shows a darker take on framing the innocent and the radical limits of jealousy. Source: Acorn TV
'London Kills' shows a darker take on framing the innocent and the radical limits of jealousy. Source: Acorn TV

For those playing the guessing game and estimating just how brutal and dark these murders get, worry not. Marquess assures they have done their due diligence when it comes to portraying a story on-screen, that will be able to leave viewers shaken, but definitely not grossed out. "We generally start with real stories and then we change them very often," revealed Marquess about how the basis for each episode comes to be. "I work with a team of writers. There's five in total. We sit a room and we kick ideas around and people come in with sometimes add ideas that are really well worked out."

And as typical as it might seem, it's not like Agatha Christie, or 'Conundrum', assured Marquess, as the idea behind creating the show was to make viewers "feel these were real people who had been murdered, and it's a vital job to find out who did it, and why they did it, and then to show the audience what the consequences are."

At the same time, delving that deep into portraying things as real as possible might get risky, because of all the blood, gore, and horror, some of the most twisted murders pack with them. But trust Marquess to have that aspect covered too, knowing just where to draw the line.

Paul Marquess, writer of 'London Kills.' (Source: Acorn TV)
Paul Marquess, writer of 'London Kills.' (Source: Acorn TV)

"In a way, we've got some license," Marquess remarked about the graphic imagery quotient of the show. "We tell really dark stories, but we don't depict it in a really graphic sort of way," he stated, adding that "you can tell really dark stories and the audience likes that; what they don't like is violence, and bad language, and gore. That's a very niche audience, and definitely not my audience." And taking his word would be a smart decision, because the writer has exercised his grip over the genre for quite a while now. 

'London Kills' premiered Monday, February 25, on Acorn TV, and all five episodes of series 1 are available for streaming now.