"The Helen West Casebook," a British mystery suspense television series, was produced in 2001 by Arrowhead Productions for the United Kingdom's ITV (Independent - i.e., commercial, stations). A police procedural/thriller, it is now released as a box set consisting of three feature-length crime dramas, totaling approximately 289 minutes. The set features biographies of star, award-winning actress Amanda Burton; and author of the best-selling thrillers on which the series is based, the award-winning Frances Fyfield (A Helen West Omnibus
). Unfortunately, the set does not come equipped with subtitles, and it could use them, as the actors are seemingly following the current protocol in accents: use whatever you think best, and let the audience struggle.
Burton, who plays the title character, Helen West, a crown prosecutor, has won three National Television Awards for most popular actress in the U.K. She also stars in The Commander Set 1 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC
]; and Silent Witness : Complete BBC Series 1  [DVD
]. (I absolutely loved Burton as "Sam Ryan" in "Silent Witness," which she co-produced.) (Burton also played "Elly van Roekel" in one episode of the 1990's series Van Der Valk - Series 1 Box Set [DVD] [1972
]. For years, I thought that Burton was the daughter of famed Welsh actor Richard Burton, but the Northern Ireland-born actress evidently is not.
Author Fyfield based her stories on her own experience as a crown prosecutor. She has made her character here, Helen West, also a dedicated prosecutor, who deals in gruesome crimes - murder, domestic abuse, sexual assault -- and has an abiding commitment to truth and justice. But West's personal life is messy: she can't quite seem to rationalize a troubled relationship with Geoffrey Bailey, (Conor Mullen, Reckless [DVD] [2007
]), the handsome policeman with whom she works. Other series regulars, both of whom turn in excellent jobs, include Anthony Howell (Foyle's War: Series 1-5 - From Dunkirk to VE-Day [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC
]); and Nicholas Woodeson (Rome: Complete HBO Seasons 1 And 2 [DVD] [2005
]). The series, which is uniformly well-acted, also showcases Dermot Crowley (Bleak House - BBC (3 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2005
]); Rita Tushingham (The Knack And How To Get It [DVD] [1965
]; Doctor Zhivago  [DVD
]) and Martin Freeman ("The Office - Complete Series One & Two and The Christmas Specials"). The episodes are:
Deep Sleep. The wife of a respected pharmacist dies in her sleep. West smells a rat; everyone urges her to move on.
Shadow Play. Lowlife street sweeper Lycett is often seen in court, suspected of child abuse. He claims his long-lost daughter is the only reason he seems so inappropriately interested in other people's children.
A Clear Conscience. West's new house cleaner/painter comes trailing suspicion in the high-profile death of her brother, a champion boxer.
The shows are unique, sophisticated, suspenseful, intriguing and well-written, told from a feminine perspective. Plotting is intelligent and tight: the mysteries let us in on clues as they go. Production values are high: Location filming in some of London's darker and dirtier streets is satisfyingly atmospheric. These are stories squarely aimed at the intelligent woman, who will enjoy them.