Skip to main content

A spy turns detective in Signora Volpe

A spy turns detective in Signora Volpe

In Drama’s intriguing new series, Phoebe Fox is a disillusioned spy looking for a change of lifestyle. She heads for the beautiful Italian countryside – but she’s soon caught up in murder 

By Chris Miller, Feature Writer

We all love a murder mystery, right? The intrigue, the skulduggery, the shocking twists, the working out which of the recognisable guest stars is the culprit. It’s tons of fun, and it’s a genre British TV does marvellously well.


But sometimes we’ll be watching one set on the rainy city streets, or perhaps a bleak seaside town, and we’ll think: you know what? I’d be enjoying this just a little more if it was set amid the gorgeous, sun-soaked scenery of, ooh, I don’t know, Italy.


And our wish has come true! Signora Volpe, starting on Wednesday 1 November on Drama, is a delightfully British murder-mystery series with a backdrop of enchanting Italian landscapes. Silent Witness star Emilia Fox is in the lead role of Phoebe Fox, an MI6 operative who’s disillusioned with her career and takes a trip to spend time with her family and reassess her life. But, wouldn’t you know it, deception and subterfuge – along with a unhealthy dollop of death – follow her all the way to Umbria…


Creators Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths, who have previously written for Midsomer Murders, were inspired by a real-life British spy named Daphne Park. She had a distinguished, occasionally thrilling, Foreign Office career during and after the Second World War – but, they wondered, what if she had tired of the constant lying, double-dealing and general underhandedness? Can a spy ever really change their nature?


Phoebe proves unable to do so. As well as being dragged back into some murky espionage business by her ex-husband Adam (Jamie Bamber, Law & Order: UK), she can’t resist investigating when her niece’s fiancé disappears and a body is found at his house. She also gets entangled with local police in the form of handsome carabinieri captain Giovanni Riva (Giovanni Cirfieri, Le Mans ’66) – who bestows on her the nickname Signora Volpe, “Madam Fox”.


But Signora Volpe is about more than murders, MI6 and marvellous scenery. The mystery plots sit alongside a character-driven drama about a woman reconnecting not just with her family but with herself, after spending too long in an unhappy place. Phoebe’s interactions with her sister Isabel (Tara Fitzgerald, Belgravia) let us know who she really is, while her verbal sparring with Riva is delightful.


And good news for fans of the breathtaking Umbrian vistas: Phoebe has bought a crumbling house in the area, so she’s not going anywhere – and another series is already in the works…


When does Signora Volpe start on Drama?

Signora Volpe premieres at 8pm on Wednesday 1 November on Drama HD (CH 116), when all three episodes will be available in On Demand. Ahead of the start of the series, let’s meet the cast and their characters.


Where do I know her from?
 Fox has played pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander in more than 150 episodes of Silent Witness, although her first big role was Georgiana Darcy in the 1990s TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (both in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer). You can also see her presenting real-life crime series Murdertown (On Demand) and In The Footsteps Of Killers (Apps & Games > Channel 4).


Fox on Sylvia… “She’s a woman at a crossroads in her life. She’s been totally focused on her work at MI6, to the detriment of her relationships with her family. This is why it’s so important that she gets to her niece’s wedding in Italy, where her sister lives. What does she do: go back to her life in London, or stay in Italy and try to heal herself and her family life?”


Where do I know her from?
Fitzgerald rose to fame in the 1990s in films such as Hear My Song and Brassed Off. Like Emilia Fox, she played a pathologist in a BBC drama – Dr Eve Lockhart in Waking The Dead (Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer) – and recently she’s been in Requiem (Apps & Games > Netflix), The ABC Murders and Belgravia. She was also Selyse Baratheon in the huge fantasy hit Game Of Thrones.


Fitzgerald on Isabel… “There’s sometimes a sense of trouble in paradise that you get with her, which I enjoyed, and her humour. I thought the exploration of the sister relationship was something I hadn’t seen very often, so that felt very real and satisfying. The competitiveness and a kind of envy that exists between the sisters feels quite honest.”


Where do I know him from?
He had small parts in the films Le Mans ’66 (Apps & Games > Disney+) and Biblical epic Mary Magdalene, but his biggest international role was as Santo Versace in American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace.


Cirfieria on Giovanni… “He’s a little tortured, but he wants to enjoy life. He wants to find freedom within the confines of the uniform. In the beginning he doesn’t quite understand who [Sylvia] is, but he starts getting closer to her and trying to understand her. He’s attracted to her but there is also a little conflict because she is stepping into his territory.”


Where do I know him from?
Bamber’s best-known role is Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama in Battlestar Galactica (On Demand or Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer), but he’s been a regular on our screens since that show ended in 2009 with roles in Marcella, DI Ray (both Apps & Games > ITVX), Strike Back (On Demand), Who Is Erin Carter? (Apps & Games > Netflix) and more.


Bamber on Adam… “Adam is Sylvia’s ex-husband but also a colleague and an MI6 spy. Their work relationship is complicated because he’s out-manoeuvred her in the first episode, and their personal relationship is even more complicated because, even though they’re divorced, they’re still very close. The boundaries between personal and professional are murky.”


Where do I know her from?
Knopfler, who plays Isabel’s daughter Alice, had her highest-profile role to date in crime thriller Before We Die (Apps & Games > Channel 4) with Lesley Sharp. She’s from a famous family too: her dad is Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and her mum is actor turned novelist Kitty Aldridge.


Knopfler on Alice… “Alice is marrying Tommaso, someone from a criminal family, but her view is coloured by rose-tinted glasses. She has sacrificed her Master’s degree to be with him, as well as her independence, and has started lying to her family. It’s Sylvia’s appearance for the wedding which brings Alice back to reality. Alice starts to think ‘What am I doing?’ and look at how fierce and wonderful a woman can be.”


Where do I know him from?
Meskar, who plays a carabinieri colleague of Riva’s, worked with celebrated French film-maker François Ozon on In The House and has appeared in movies and series across numerous countries. He can be seen in Italian film The Hottest Summer (Apps & Games > Prime Video) and the upcoming British movie The Entertainer, which he co-wrote.


Meskar on Samir… “He’s come out of school not too long ago and he works hard at impressing his capitano. Hamdani is quite suspicious of Sylvia from the beginning and considers Sylvia as the possible murderer in episode 1. But he realises she’s always on point, so he starts to become inspired by her. She’s someone he wants to be like.”


You might also like

TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.

HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.

Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.

On Demand: Content available to view depends on TV package. Time limits apply for viewing chargeable On Demand content – see Once purchased, all chargeable On Demand content must be viewed within 48 hours. Premium channels and upgrades must be kept for at least 30 days.

Image credits: Signora Volpe © 2022 Acorn Media Enterprises LLC & AMC Film Holdings LLC. All rights reserved.