Don’t live by a lake. That’s the main takeaway from Walter Presents’ latest French drama. A sequel to Vanished by the Lake, Killer by the Lake picks up events three years on, as Parisian detective Lise Stocker has moved to start a new life with her husband, Clovis (Lannick Gautry), and their baby. They now live in Annecy, by another lake – and, sure enough, their lives are interrupted by the discovery of two dead bodies.
If that sounds like a cautionary example of more of the same, though, Killer by the Lake works because it manages to offer up similar thrills with a subtle line in character development. Here, Lise finds herself teaming up with Clovis to work out what’s going on – after all, with similarities between two crime scenes they’ve each been called to, surely it’s only logical that a serial killer is at work? (Her boss, understandably, is keen to play down that possibility.)
Lise’s married life, meanwhile, isn’t exactly healthy. We discover early on that Clovis is acting strangely, as he secretly contacts another woman; is he having an affair? Or is there another, more innocent explanation? That personal strain makes for an effective contrast to their professional partnership, and it’s only the start of Lise’s troubles, as she also has to contend with the worsening Alzheimer’s suffered by her mother (Marie-Anne Chazel).
Killer by the Lake balances that internal drama with some gorgeous external vistas. The new backdrop of nnecy is wonderfully caught on camera, making sure that the show continues to live up to its title: if you’re tuning in expecting killers and lakes, you won’t be disappointed. But the beautiful visuals are nothing without an emotional hook, and it’s Lise who continues to anchor events with a sympathetic and complex depth.
That’s saying something when your lead actor has changed altogether: in this series, Lise is played by Julie de Bona, replacing Barbara Schulz. But de Bona is just as strong a presence, and has a convincing, well-worn chemistry with Lannick Gautry – her successful recasting is perhaps Killer by the Lake’s biggest, and most easily overlooked, achievement. Together, the couple power a drama that doesn’t break any new TV ground, but has mapped out its familiar territory well enough that it’s never less than compelling. The first season recalled Broadchurch with its balancing of character and crime mystery in a close-knit community, and Killer by the Lake promises more of the same – given how Season 2 of Broadchurch turned out, there’s a lot to be said for consistency, no matter how dubious your choice in house locations is.
Killer by the Lake premieres at 10.35pm on Channel 4, with the full box set available on Walter Presents after broadcast.