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New TV show looks at murder cases through the eyes of the victim

TV Review: Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets

Investigation Discovery launches its new murder/mystery series, Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets, Monday, January 10 at 10 PM Eastern Time with two half hour episodes. “With a plethora of murder-mystery series on television today, the production team at Investigation Discovery consistently challenge themselves to evolve their storytelling techniques,” announced Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of the network. The hook they have evolved for their new venture is to narrate a fact based murder story “from the perspective of the victim.” Think The Lovely Bones on a low budget. Individual episodes combine footage of actors who resemble the victims, actor voiceovers, actual photos of the victim and commentary from police officers and friends and relatives of the victim. Each of the first two cases begins with some background, moves to a description of the actual crime, and then follows the investigation through its trials and errors to the final solution.

The initial episode, “Daddy’s Princess,” tells the story of Ali Kemp a 19-year-old college student home for the summer found beaten to death in the pump room of a swimming pool where she had been working. Police had a witness who had seen the killer as well as DNA evidence from blood found at the scene of the crime, but after three years and a couple of leads that failed to pan out, had still been unable to come up with the killer. Ali’s father, however, was unwilling to give up, and he comes up with a novel scheme to try to get new information.

The second show, “Checkmate,” deals with the bludgeoning death of a 49-year-old Ellen Robb the wife of a University of Pennsylvania professor noted for his work on game theory who lives with her family in the mainline community of Upper Merion in Pennsylvania. This is a woman who it would seem has everything anyone could possibly want out of life, until one day her husband comes home to find that the house has been broken into and ransacked, and his wife lies brutally beaten in the kitchen. Although this is a community unused to this kind of violence, the police quickly determine that there is something fishy about the break in, and begin to look at other possibilities.

While the stories are interesting presentations of the investigative procedures involved the particular cases, there isn’t really a lot of suspense, since it is made fairly clear from the start that the perpetrator is going to get caught. It is only a matter of how. In the Kemp story, the narrator keeps suggesting that her daddy is not going to rest until he brings the murderer to justice.

In the Robb story, the fact that Ellen’s brothers appear; her neighbors appear, but one significant person only appears in still photos, seems an obvious indicator of where the story is going. The writing could use some work as well. Too often it falls back on the cliché and the hackneyed. The whole “Daddy’s Princess” concept fortified by shots of a cute little girl running about in the countryside is a mite saccharine. The voice of the dead Ali saying I’ll always be Daddy’s little girl is not much better. Ellen Robb’s voiceovers about the perfect life she always wanted and at least seemed to have found is something of a perversion of the American dream considering what happens. And the banal conclusion she makes at one point that money is the root of all evil, is less than compelling.

The series continues with two shows on Monday, January 17. In “Cold as Ice,” Denise Huber, a young graduate student goes missing after attending a concert in 1991. In 1994, a van is discovered parked in an Arizona yard with the young girl’s body. “Closing Time” tells the story of Jerry Monroe, a bar owner in Louisville, KY who is found murdered in his own bar. Authorities have to determine whether he killed in the course of a robbery or a victim of gang violence. Individual half hour episodes continue to air every Monday through March 14.

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