I stayed up way, way past my bedtime to watch a BBC TV series on iPlayer; set in Dundee it’s the story of Emma, young girl who returns to the city of her birth from living in Manchester with an aunt. She was taken into the care of her aunt at the age of four when her mother, the aunt’s sister was murdered twenty years ago, and her father, a drug addict was unable to care for her. ‘Traces’ was filmed in 2019 but first shown earlier this year and I’m very excited that a second series is in the offing but doubt it can be as brilliant as series 1!

Having completed her agree in forensic science, Emma Hedges has returned to Dundee to work in the Scottish Institute of Forensic Science; her boss at SIFA is Sarah Gordon, professor of Chemistry at the University of Tayside, and Kathy Torrence is a professor of forensic anthropology in the department. Emma very much enjoys her new job and soon makes a friend of another young woman working in the lab. As part of her ongoing training Emma has to study a MOOC (massive open on-line course, I’ve done several and they are excellent!) and she’s shocked and horrified to discover that part of the course is based on the murder of her mother – although the identity is concealed. It’s pretty apparent to the viewer that Emma is going to try to discover who was responsible for her mother’s death, as well as being involved in a side story about an illegal drug factory in the city. There is also a romance between Emma and a man she meets by chance when she’s looking for a lost bag.

The story is told from several points of view, and the only thing the viewer is sure of is Emma’s character, courage and commitment, no-one else can be trusted. Some characters are clearly ‘baddies’ but some are more nuanced – is there some sort of conspiracy going on in the lab itself? Can Emma trust others she loves, her childhood friend and her mother who was her own mum’s best friend, her dad (played by an almost unrecognisable John Gordano Sinclair) and above all her new love, Danny? Can she trust the two professors in charge of the unit, and the policeman who’s investigating her mother’s murder?

Obviously it’s fiction, and it’s unlikely such a story-line could be true but all the events of it are very believable, even the climax and big reveal at the end is well-paced, utterly engrossing, but feasible. Love at first sight for Emma? Yes, I can believe that.  A poorly run initial investigation into Emma’s mother’s murder? Yes I can believe that too. Trust and mistrust issues, believing – and choosing to believe, or disbelieving those closest to you? People telling what they sincerely believe to be the truth but which in fact may not be, secrets and lies, lies and secrets – who can Emma believe and trust? Obviously it’s a fiction, but while watching it was credible.

The reasons I think it was so good are obviously that it was well-written and an interesting and engaging story, I really wanted to know the answers. It was well-paced, not hurried, no short-cuts although it moved along pretty smartly over the six episodes. It was well-lit – I know darkness can be a really strong element of films and TV series, but it can become clichéd. The acting, without exception was faultless, but the absolute star was Molly Windsor as Emma; she was only twenty-two when the programme was filmed and yet she is utterly plausible, very natural, totally believable. I’m sure she has a great future as an actress. The other actors were excellent too – Laura Fraser who I recently saw in ‘The Loch’ was so nice, so kind, that I began to think she was too nice, too kind! Could Emma trust her? Why were she and the detective so friendly – were they just friends, in cahoots, beginning to fall for each other? Without,, I hope giving too much away in case you watch it, Vincent Regan is so creepy, so terrifying, he almost made my skin crawl – brilliant acting!

Series two is apparently in production, I can’t wait!

Evidence doesn’t lie – people do. Three women try to unearth the truth about an unsolved murder that’s very close to home.


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