The Poison Tree, a two-part ITV psychological suspense story, began this evening and certainly proved watchable. I haven't read the book by Erin Kelly on which Emilia di Girolamo's adaptation is based (though I recall enjoying a book with the same title by Tony Strong a few years back - whatever happened to Tony Strong,by the way?) The cast is led by the memorably named (and very good-looking) trio of MyAnna Buring, Matthew Goode and Ophelia Lovibond.
The story begins in the present with Kate Clarke (Buring) greeting her husband Rex (Goode) as he leaves prison after serving a 12 year sentence. We don't know anything about what he has done, but in a series of flashbacks we see the couple being introduced by Rex's wacky sister Biba (Lovibond). Rather like a pair of Ruth Rendell characters, the siblings live in a posh house, but don't work, and clearly have "issues".
At first Biba, Kate and Rex get on swimmingly, but things start to go wrong when Kate finds out about her friends' father, a rich man who has given up on them and wants to evict them from the house. In the present day story, Rex struggles to adjust to life outside, and someone is watching him, Kate and their daughter. Rex is keeping his identity secret, but this seemed wildly optimistic from the start, and it soon becomes clear that the neighbours are suspicious Meanwhile, in the past, events move to a homicidal climax.
The story is intriguing, and this is another of those thrillers that gains added suspense from a spooky Fenland setting. So it will be worth staying with it to find out what's going on (and what went on, years ago.) However, I did have reservations. First, I found it difficult to warm to any of the main characters, and consequently I wasn't as sympathetic to Kate and Rex as I felt I should have been (nor, for that matter, was I convinced by Kate's supposed Warrington accent).. Second, there were one or two aspects of the plot that seemed unlikely, even by the standards of this type of story - where, I think, one has to accept that suspension of disbelief is necessary. For instance, why on earth hadn't Kate and Rex planned more carefully how they would lead their new lives after such a long time apart, if they were so desperate to conceal his identity and what had happened in the past? Perhaps the novel covers these issues more plausibly. Or perhaps satisfactory explanations will be forthcoming in episode two. We'll see.