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Heat of the Sun

Heat of the Sun Sizzles on the Small Screen

photo from Heat of the Sun If the starkly beautiful landscape of Kenya seems an unlikely setting for blackmail, drug-running, kidnapping, arson, and murder, Heat of the Sun, a lavish new six-hour MYSTERY! miniseries, confirms that even the most stunning, patently unspoiled settings are seldom what they seem. This is only one of the surprises awaiting the brash and dashing Albert Tyburn (Trevor Eve; The Politician's Wife), a former Scotland Yarder transplanted to 1930s Nairobi, who finds he must battle not only criminals, but the imperialism of Kenya's hedonistic "Happy Valley" set.

Filmed entirely on location in Africa, with contemporary Zimbabwe standing in for 1930s Kenya, Heat of the Sun finds Tyburn (Eve) about to take charge of a new criminal investigation unit. Sharply evoking the race, class, and culture clashes that are the ugly hallmarks of colonial life, Heat of the Sun is jam-packed with outsized characters, shifting relationships, twists, turns, reversals, betrayals, civil war, daring rescues–as well as an ongoing but tentative romance between Superintendent Tyburn and the fiercely independent bush pilot Emma Fitzgerald (Susannah Harker; Pride and Prejudice), both ill at ease with the debauched excesses of Nairobi's expatriate community.

In the opening episode, Private Lives, Tyburn arrives in Nairobi and immediately locks horns with his superior, Police Commissioner Ronald Burkitt (Michael Byrne; Braveheart). A pompous bigot, Burkitt disapproves of Tyburn's insistence on the equal treatment of the classes under the law and his humanitarian approach to the locals. Assisting Tyburn are the efficient Assistant Superintendent Clive Lanyard (James Callis) and the able Corporal Jonah Karinde (Freddie Annobil-Dodoo).

Tyburn is immediately thrust into an investigation of the disappearance of Lady Daphne Ellesmere (Kate McKenzie). Her body is later found, mauled by a lion, in the bush outside of town, but Tyburn is convinced she was murdered. He penetrates the closed world of Nairobi's high society to question Lady Daphne's sister, Emma Fitzgerald (Harker), who is mystified by her sister's disappearance, but equally intrigued by the mystery behind Tyburn's posting to Kenya; Daphne's estranged husband, Lord Harry (Tim Woodward); her presumed lover, Viscount Guy "Boy" Cameron (Daniel Betts); and Dr. Alistair Strachan (Ken Drury), who recently treated Daphne for a severe case of "altitude sickness." Tyburn is quickly drawn into a tantalizing web of deceit that encompasses drug-running, adultery, and murder, as well as a secret love affair that leads to a surprising fate for his assistant, Lanyard.

In Hide in Plain Sight, Tyburn is called in to investigate the death of one young native girl–and the abduction of another from a Christian mission in Nairobi. But for Corporal Karinde (Freddie Annobil-Dodoo), the investigation is a family matter: the abducted girl is his cousin, Mary (Memory Santos). The Reverend Edward Herbert (Hugh Bonneville) and Charlotte Elliot (Cathryn Harrison), who run the mission, direct Tyburn and his new Assistant Superintendent James Valentine (Julian Rhind-Tutt; Reckless) to a financially strapped coffee plantation that had, until recently, employed the murdered girl.

Tyburn and company soon learn that young women who worked on the Watcham plantation–run by Avril (Diana Quick; Brideshead Revisited), Matilda (Deborah Findlay), and brother Theodore (Richard McCabe)–are disappearing upon their dismissal. Tyburn follows a trail of faked evidence, blackmail, and secret identities, certain that it is leading him to something evil–but is its origin African or British?

The Sport of Kings, the final two chapters of Heat of the Sun, is set against Race Week, Nairobi's social event of the year. Called upon to investigate the murder of a local boy who worked for newspaper baron and entrepreneur Max Van der Vuurst (Joss Ackland; Lethal Weapon 2), Tyburn makes the audacious move of arresting the tycoon–infuriating his boss, Burkitt. At his trial, Van der Vuurst is exonerated through the testimony of his deceitful daughter Hilde (Sonya Walger), only to be shot and nearly killed by the grieving father of the murdered boy, who, like Tyburn, remains convinced of his guilt.

Shortly after, Van der Vuurst is found burned to death in his bed–and Tyburn must determine whether the two cases are connected. Forced to resign when he defies Burkitt's order to arrest the murdered boy's father, Tyburn boldly pursues the case on his own. Following a gripping, violent shoot-out with a band of African marauders, Tyburn's exposure of a series of shocking family and financial secrets triggers one explosive final surprise from Van der Vuurst, and pushes Tyburn's love affair with Emma to the brink–literally.

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