Finders Keepers, review: Channel 5 strike gold with Neil Morrissey's detectorist thriller

Neil Morrissey and James Buckley in Finders Keepers
Neil Morrissey and James Buckley in Finders Keepers - Channel 5

Two people stumble across a valuable hoard and decide to keep it for themselves rather than inform the authorities – with dangerous results. In the BBC’s Boat Story, this involved a shipment of cocaine, a severed head and a man having his tongue cut out – and that was just in the first episode.

For a more agreeable viewing experience, we have Finders Keepers (Channel 5). The treasure in this case is Anglo-Saxon gold, unearthed on farmland by keen detectorist Martin (Neil Morrissey). He has been methodically combing the area for six years, convinced that it was the site of a major Saxon settlement. But on the day of his find, he is not alone. He is with his son-in-law-to-be, Ashley (James Buckley from The Inbetweeners).

Martin doesn’t really like Ashley, who is overconfident and annoying and essentially what Jay from The Inbetweeners would be if he was marginally smarter. But he reluctantly agrees to this male-bonding day out at the behest of his wife and daughter.

Martin guesses that the find is worth half a million pounds and explains to Ashley that, under the law, it must be surrendered to the Crown, with any eventual reward being split with the landowner. Ashley is incredulous: “The farmer gets half for doing nothing? And what’s the Crown got to do with it? Charlie doesn’t need any more gold, believe me. I’ve seen his coach.”

And, the thing is, Martin has money worries. His business partner has disappeared and the company is in trouble. His daughter’s wedding won’t come cheap, and nor will the care package for his disabled son. So when Ashley says he has a mate who could sell it privately, if illegally, it doesn’t take long for Martin to be sucked in.

The plot develops along familiar lines: one wrong decision leads to a whole heap of trouble. But Finders Keepers does it well. For ages now, Channel 5 has been trying to hit a decent drama standard and this definitely manages it. It is well made. Morrissey is perfectly cast as the seemingly law-abiding Martin, who actually finds it surprisingly easy to lie to everyone around him.

In comparison to Boat Story, it feels light as a feather – not surprising when the writer is Dan Sefton, who brought us The Good Karma Hospital. He injects comedy in the shape of two police constables who stumble across Martin as he tries to sell the treasure, and who are so hopeless that – in the words of a senior officer brought into the department – they “haven’t even got the stones to form an offensive WhatsApp group”.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.