TV

Sarah Parish is outstanding as a conflicted cop in UK crime drama Bancroft

The actress pulls off a very difficult assignment

Murder mysteries are woven deeply into Britain's TV culture.

You can now officially add Bancroft to an esteemed list of brilliantly conceived mystery shows such as Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect and Midsomer Murders.

Like its predecessors, Bancroft excels with grit and authenticity.

In this series, we're given a brutal but mesmerising portrayal of a cop who must come to terms with the possibility that her past may be exposed through the reopening of a long-ago cold case.

Sarah Parish anchors the series brilliantly, never missing a beat in the deeply complex role of DCI Elizabeth Bancroft.

Sarah Parish as DCI Elizabeth Bancroft.

Bancroft is ruthless and courageous, a woman whose private life is a shambles as a result of devoting her life to the police force.

She's just the woman every cop wants beside them in a crisis.

She's trusted, respected and appears headed for a promotion to Detective Chief Superintendent.

From its opening credits, the series will capture your attention with its haunting score and cleverly constructed narrative.

One minute you'll be digging your nails into your armchair as Bancroft puts her life on the line when a surveillance job goes wrong. The next, you'll be in shock as the show gives us glimpses of the cold case.

Bancroft has a side no-one's encountered.

Sarah says she chased the role because she wanted to explore a contentious anti-heroine, a woman we love and loathe in equal measure.

"Bancroft is a very complex woman, with a lot of baggage," Sarah, 50, tells TV WEEK. "Something happened 27 years ago and she's put it behind her and worked her way up the ranks."

"She's a great police officer, and liked, but suddenly this comes back to haunt her. An aspect of her personality that has lain dormant resurfaces."

That's a difficult assignment, but Sarah pulls it off. She can come across as a hard-hitting alpha female, but you empathise with Bancroft because she's also deeply flawed.

Bancroft airs on Monday at 8:30pm on Channel Seven.