Stay Close is another Netflix adaptation of a Harlan Coben mystery. This one is set in England and features Cush Jumbo in the lead role. The series grabs you by the neck of your tee shirt and drags you along with a cliffhanger at the end of every episode to keep you binge watching. The music is intended to feel like a sprint as well.
Stay Close had a slightly different feel compared with some of Coben’s other work. There weren’t so many misleading clues and red herrings. There were some – it’s Coben after all – but not as many as usual. It was more the unraveling of clue after clue and the uncovering of secret after secret that kept you guessing. There were plenty of interwoven subplots going at once to keep you on your toes.
Megan (Cush Jumbo) is a suburban mom with 3 kids. She is finally going to marry their father Dave (Daniel Francis) after 15+ years together. Megan arrives home one day to find a bottle of champagne on her front step, accompanied by a card addressed to Cassie.
Megan is Cassie. Or she used to be. Seventeen years ago she ran away from her life, changed her name, and now lives a quiet life as a parent. But the card sucks her back into her old life.
A big plot hole for me was that Megan lived in the same area as before. She changed her hair color and her name. So no one saw her or recognized her in 17 years???
The first person she sees from her old life is Lorraine (Sarah Parish). Lorraine owns a strip club called Viper. Cassie/Megan was a dancer there. When an abusive man was hurting Cassie, she ran. At the same time the man disappeared. Now, all these years later, Lorraine tells her that he is back, he came into the club, and he’s looking for her. This scares her.
About this time a man named Carlton Flynn disappears. The police are looking for him. There might be a pattern involving other missing men over the years. Is this a serial killer?
Two detectives, Michael Broome (James Nesbitt) and Erin Cartwright (Jo Joyner) get the case. These two were once married but now only work together on the job. Broome investigated the unsolved disappearance of the guy from 17 years ago and hasn’t given up on it. He quickly sees a connection between that long ago case and the new one. And, he had a fling with Lorraine back then. Both of them seem eager to renew the connection now.
The father of the missing Carlton Flynn hires a pair of over-the-top oddballs to find his son since the police aren’t doing the job fast enough to suit him. They are Barbie and Ken (Poppy Gilbert and Hyoie O’Grady) who dance through the streets and sing musical numbers as if they belong in a different series entirely. Oh, yeah, Barbie kills people with Villanelle-like glee.
The final major character is Ray Levine (Richard Armitage). He’s a down on his luck photographer who was in love with Cassie and has obsessed about her leaving him for the last 17 years.
There are other characters. So many subplots require a big cast. Megan’s rebellious teen aged daughter Kayleigh (Bethany Antonia) has a key role. Ray Levine’s friend Fester (Youssef Kerkour) looks out for him. Harry (Eddie Izzard) is a seedy lawyer who helps the strippers at the Viper when they need it.
The series has 8 episodes. It’s fast paced with new danger at every turn, until finally the threats against Megan and her family are resolved and the person responsible for the missing men is revealed.
Cush Jumbo was a treat as a woman with many secrets (including the ability to fight like a black belt) who only wanted to love her family and be safe. Many of the episodes were adapted as a screenplay by women writers. This made for several interesting women characters. Lindy Heymann directed three episodes.
I went down a rabbit hole finding out about the giant sculpture called Dream that is a setting for much of the action in this series. That bridge they cross so many times is the Silver Jubilee Bridge across the River Mersey. I don’t think I’ve seen anything filmed in that part of England before. Fascinating location.
Have you seen Stay Close yet? How do you think it stacks up against other stories from Harlan Coben?