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'Wire In the Blood' Back With A Bang

A neurotic child killer tries to ease her tortured dreams by aiding investigators in the recovery of her victims. A rapist kidnaps and kills university coeds. A university lecturer is accused of raping one of his students.

And that's all in just the first episode of this season's Wire in the Blood, a BBC America crime-thriller series based on the novels of writer Val McDermid. (About that title: its from a quartet by T.S. Eliot: "The trilling wire in the blood, sings below inveterate scars, appeasing long forgotten wars." Find a meaning. Discuss.)

The action follows Dr. Tony Hill (Robson Green), a clinical psychologist and university lecturer who specializes in figuring out the profile of serial killers. He's intellectually fascinated by the varieties of homicidal minds, often to the exclusion of other topics, such as the emotions of the people around him.

His foil in the series is detective inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris), an equally placid character. There is an odd chemistry between the two of them. Not the sparks of romance, but the civil linking of two like-minded individuals.

The first, jam-packed episode opens with Hill attempting to convince his long-time patient to give authorities the location of the bodies of the children she killed. But this plot is just a side dish. The entrée is the pursuit of a kidnapper who just happens to snatch and kill a student at Hill's university in fictional Bradfield, England (It better be fictional: there are a lot of sick people creeping about here.)

Evil abounds, so it is appropriately shot in hues of gray and brown, on dank days full of rain. The only vivid colors are the grass, often seen in overhead shots that appear to be a visual metaphor for the emotionally distant investigators.

Though it's dense and skillfully done, I felt myself willing the episode to end, already. Perhaps it's a result of a steady diet of American hour formats, but the episode seems to descend into ponderousness, alleviated by the occasional convenient accident (e.g., a false rape accusation reveals the identity of another man, an actual rapist).

Wire in the Blood debuts Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.