HELEN WEST. British TV mini-series: 3 x 90m, ITV1. Episode One: “Deep Sleep” 6 May 2002. Amanda Burton (Helen West), Conor Mullen (Chief Supt. Bailey); with Annabelle Apsion, Dermot Crowley, Harry Eden, Ian Puleston-Davies. Based on the novel by Frances Fyfield.

   In Frances Fyfields’s mystery novels — there are six of them in which Superintendent Bailey teams up with prosecuting attorney Helen West as a top notch crime solving team — his first name is Geoffrey, but I’m not sure whether came up in the TV show or not.

   The three episodes are available in the US as a boxed set entitled The Helen West Casebook. The other two in the set are also based on Ms. Fyfield’s novels:

       1. 06 May 2002. Deep Sleep
       2. 13 May 2002. Shadow Play.
       3. 20 May 2003. A Clear Conscience

   An earlier book was also adapted for television: Trial by Fire (1999); in this one Juliet Stevenson and Jim Carter played the two leading roles. This unaccountably leaves the first book in the series (A Question of Guilt) and the last (Without Consent) as never having been filmed.


   What all this means is that in “Deep Sleep,” based on the third of the novels, we (the viewers) are plunged straight into the series without much introduction, with Helen West undergoing and recovering from surgery and straight into the arms of her lover, Superintendent Bailey. (As a side comment, I cannot see any conflict of interest there, but their public smooching sometimes borders on the unprofessional.)

   I was going to say that maybe they do things differently in England, but I can’t, since maybe they do in this country also, and I just haven’t been paying attention. Dead in this one, though, is the wife of a well-loved pharmacist. Her passing is all but considered to be of natural causes, but a noticeable amount of chloroform in her blood keeps Helen from closing the case.

   Making the story a little more complicated is the fact that the pharmacist’s assistant, whom he seems to have eyes for, is the former wife of one of the officers under Bailey’s command == and the officer in question is not reconciled with the separation, not at all.


   There is also the matter of a kidnapped child, the suspicious death of a neighborhood junkie, and an unexploded bomb discovered while tearing down a row of worn-out tenement buildings.

   It all adds up to a lot of story, as perhaps you can tell. While Helen West takes a rather small role, surprisingly enough, when all is said and done, all of the activity in it certainly revolves about her. Even though this particular episode is far more a crime thriller than it is a work of detective fiction, I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve not watched the other two films in this set, but I shall, and quickly too.