Written, produced by and starring the famous actress, the new drama is overflowing with dark humour, Danielle de Wolfe discovers.

It's not every day that a group of priests watch with wry smiles as one of their own is murdered in cold blood.

Even stranger is the idea that all of this should take place on a small Mediterranean island, surrounded by azure seas, in the middle of a global pandemic.

For actress and producer Sally Lindsay, however, it was just another day at the office whereby new Channel 5 drama The Madame Blanc Mysteries saw her swap the grey skies of the UK for the altogether sunnier climes of Gozo.

Lindsay recalls how, on more than one occasion, the project saw her deep in negotiations with a group of local religious leaders, having identified a quaint Maltese square in which to film.

"We literally took over the square, even to the point where they closed it off for a few days for us," enthuses the 48-year-old, who is best known for her roles as Shelley Barlow in Coronation Street and more recently Kath in Still Open All Hours.

"The only thing we couldn't stop was the bells - they love a bell in Malta."

Describing the priests as "excited" about the prospect of a fictional murder being committed under their roof, the actress says the whole experience proved rather unique.

"The priests were watching it going, 'It's fabulous!'" says Lindsay, laughing. "They let us use their relics and everything... the church was like, 'Yeah, you can have that, yeah, you can have that'."

Described as "the size of Stockport", Gozo, with its diverse landscapes and architecture, is a location regularly used by film crews the world over.

In this instance, the island's shuttered streets are set to transport viewers to the fictional southern French town of Sainte Victoire.

It's a tale that revolves around esteemed Cheshire antiques dealer Jean White (Lindsay), who runs a successful business built up with the help of her husband Rory.

Overcome by grief following his sudden death on return from an antiques scavenging trip to the South of France, proceedings take an even darker turn for Jean when she finds their shop has been re-mortgaged, their major assets pawned off and the couple's life savings have vanished.

"What inspired me was a lady I met on holiday," recalls Lindsay. "She was a really eminent antiques dealer and really very knowledgeable and fantastic, and she was telling me about how she had a third-generation antiques dealership in London.

"I don't think it happens anymore but what used to happen in Europe is basically her and her husband would get their van and they'd all drive to these beautiful little towns in the South of France and then the Italians would come and the Spanish would come and they'd all swap [items]. What was complete tat in our country would be really fashionable in Italy."

With the sole remaining asset being the couple's idyllic home in the French antiques hub of Sainte Victoire, Jean finds herself with more questions than answers - particularly given the lavish ring her husband was bringing back to her is nowhere to be found. Venturing to Europe to uncover the truth, a unique Sherlockian mystery begins to unravel.

"I don't know whether it's my obsession with Agatha Christie, or Sherlock Holmes, or whatever it is, but it seems I love writing murder mysteries," muses Lindsay.

"We got a commission pretty much straight away by Channel 5, which was unheard of. I mean, when you think Scott and Bailey took six years and Mount Pleasant took six years to get made, and then five minutes after it goes in [they] said, 'Yeah, we'll have it'"

Flipping her usual writing and development process on its head, Lindsay explains how The Madame Blanc Mysteries was born in secret, with longstanding writing partner Sue Vincent having little to no prior knowledge of the project.

A story that took shape while on set at Pinewood Studios between her scenes in the David Jason-fronted comedy Still Open All Hours, the actress whimsically recalls how she would "just sit at my desk and write Sainte Victoire".

"Making this show was like winning a competition, albeit one I've been entering for 22 years," agrees actress and writing partner Vincent, best known for her on-screen roles in Shameless, Coronation Street and Mount Pleasant.

"She was on holiday and Channel 5 wanted a script quickly, so she rang me and I knocked out the first 20 pages in about two-and-a-half hours. There were some ups and downs along the way, but we never lost the vision of our world."

Describing the series as "Lovejoy meets Escape To The Chateau", Vincent says the series is packed with laughs and quizzical ongoings aplenty.

A labour of love that Lindsay affectionately calls a "family affair", the actress says she's now "scared to death" of the project's reception given her role as both producer and lead, with the overall experience being described as a "baptism of fire".

"You'd wake up every morning and you'd go, 'The buck stops with you'," she says.

"But I have absolutely loved it. I don't know whether a monster has been created, but I've absolutely loved it."

The Madame Blanc Mysteries airs on Channel 5 on Saturday October 16.