J. Lynn Stapleton
A couple of years ago I was listening to an audio series on BBC Radio4 called “Stone” as part of their Afternoon Drama segments. Late to the series as I was, I found it via Audible; the series was released in shorter segments by series, a series at a time. Then later it’s been released in two larger sections, Series 1-4 and Series 5-7. Series 8 ran earlier this year on BBC Radio4 Afternoon Drama. The detective series, is a full-cast audio drama created by Danny Brocklehurst (writer of Safe, Coming Home, Ordinary Lies, The Five, Shameless, Clocking Off) and is about a Major Incident Team in Manchester, led by Detective Chief Inspector John Stone (played by Hugo Speer). His team includes DS Sue Kelly (Deborah McAndrew) and DI Mike Tanner (Craig Cheetham). It is directed by Nadia Molinari, Stefan Escreet, Charlotte Riches and Pauline Harris.
Along with Danny Brocklehurst, the detective radio drama features the writing talents of Chloe Moss, Damian Wayling, Cath Staincliffe, Gurpreet Bhatti, Martin Jameson, James Rye, Richard Monks, and Vivienne Harvey. The stories grasp you and bring you into the various episodes where you can visualise the stories as clear as watching would. They focus on scenarios that can and do occur in many a crime drama: dealing with historic crime, vulnerable adults, domestic violence, dishonour amongst families, honour killings, gang violence, corruption, ineptitude, witnessing a crime and being intimidated from coming forward (or testifying), racial discrimination, murder of a sexual predator, etc..
The first episode, Mary Shane, opens up with a case of a missing girl which triggers the memory of an older woman played by Anne Reid, who comes into the police station and confesses to a WWII era cold case triple murder. But memories being what they are, Stone and his colleagues are unsure at first whether to believe her. Suranne Jones also guest stars in this episode as the woman’s friend who also struggles to believe that this woman she’s been friends with for decades could be guilty of such a crime.
For the first few series, the stories are episodic for the most part – each story being contained within. In series seven and eight, the stories run through the length of the series (and have more episodes per series). Series seven consists of ten episodes and guest stars Jill Halfpenny across the series as the detectives try to work out the arson of a social housing development when a man’s remains are found in the aftermath and it links back to a former case of Stone’s. The eighth series (also running ten episodes) Retribution – The Unravelling of a Murder, Stone and his team are up against witness protection in their attempt to solve a murder and keep running against obstacles.
At times through the series, you have glimpses at the main characters’ personal lives, and the impact upon which the cases affect the lives of the detectives and their families, but on the whole, the stories focus on the cases before them and how they deal with solving the cases. The team of three – John Stone, Sue Kelly, and Mike Tanner work well together, playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, both professional and personal. There’s a camaraderie that blends nicely even when they do annoy the shit out of each other.
The ninth and final series of Stone, will air likely early in the new year on BBC Radio4.
There are times when I’ve binge-watched a television series for hours. In the case of DCI Stone, I’ve binge-listened to multiple episodes as I’ve worked on other things that don’t require my full attention, as I’ve gotten roped into the stories that I just want to hear what happens in the next story. The stories runtime in S1 is about 56 minutes each, and running about 43 minutes each in S2-7. They also stand up on re-listening. So, if you’ve got some time on your hands and enjoy crime audio dramas, check it out.
As mentioned above, Series 1-4, and 5-7 are currently available on Audible. Series 8 is currently not available online (at least as far as I’ve checked – hoping it will be compiled with series 9 next year).