Written by Ray Jenkins
Directed by Peter Duguid
Jean Coquet (Geoff Cheshire), a French agent and a friend of Callan’s, is killed on the way to London. Hunter assigns him to guard Coquet’s wife Francine (Ann Lynn) who may also be in danger. Callan has never had a very high opinion of her (“she’s too dedicated … to everything except her husband”). And his minding job goes sour when he’s surprised by several intruders who spirit Francine away, whilst at the same time a man calling himself Marcel Latour (David Leland) turns up at Callan’s flat.
Lonely is there, tidying up after a break-in, and Latour pulls a gun on him, telling him he’s “the wife of Jean Coquet”. Meres disarms Latour, but they are ambushed on the way to the Section. Who attacked Latour and were they the same people who killed Coquet? And how is Francine involved?
Death of a Friend offers a slight change of pace – whilst it has the usual intelligence trappings, it’s much more of a mystery story, as Callan attempts to find the reason for his friend’s death. Given how few friends he seems to have, this does help to humanise him a little.
Russell Hunter has some lovely moments. After he and Callan view the wreckage of Callan’s flat, Lonely looks around before solemnly intoning that “There’s somebody don’t like you, Mr Callan”. He also seems to make the worst tea in the world. “Blimey, it’s pigswill” says Callan, after tasting a mouthful. Once he’s left, Lonely takes a sip (in the manner of a wine buff) and seems to enjoy it. Just a little throw-away character beat, but it’s a nice one.
There’s some very decent actors (Rex Robinson, Jerome Willis) in supporting roles and the solution of the mystery is unexpected – although it does leave some questions unanswered, especially the reason why they chose to kill Coquet in England and in such a public way (surely they knew that British Intelligence would take a close interest?).
The relationship between Coquet and Latour is handled sensitively. For Callan, it makes no difference, as he tells Francine “A man is dead, Francine. A very good man”. Francine counters that he was a “lover of boys” and this statement is at the heart of the story.