ITV’s gripping drama tells the story of the hunt for serial killer John Cooper, with justice for the victims central to the narrative

In the opening scenes of The Pembrokeshire Murders (ITV), Det Supt Steve Wilkins (Luke Evans) folds a dishcloth with the kind of precision that suggests he is a Good Detective, while hinting that he would be a nightmare to live with. It is a good symbol of the kind of neat, compact drama that will follow, which relies on forensic detail and expertly honed instincts. The three-parter is based on the real-life investigation into the killing of Peter and Gwenda Dixon, the couple robbed and shot dead while walking on a coastal path in Pembrokeshire in 1989. It took two decades for the culprit to be brought to justice, and this is an elegant retelling of how it happened.

There is never any real doubt about who is responsible for those murders, and eventually more – not least because John Cooper, the prime suspect, is played by Keith Allen, never more at home than he is here – so as a drama, it has to find its friction outside of a whodunnit framework. It is 2006, the Queen is turning 80, and Tony Blair is still in charge. Wilkins, newly returned to Pembrokeshire from London, is set on reopening the coastal path case, which he thinks he can solve. It is gripping and tense from the off.

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