Posts Tagged ‘Miss Marple’

The latest Miss Marple Mystery on PBS Mystery!, The Blue Geranium, was originally an Agatha Christie short story. While I did not find this mystery quite as satisfying to watch as The Secret of the Chimneys, I found my viewing time well spent. The solution leads to a typical old-fashioned Agatha Christie twist, with Miss Marple racing against time to save an innocent man. Once again the British cast, led by Julia McKenzie, Toby Stephens, and Claudie Blakley is sterling. To see where the clues were dropped, you can watch the 90-minute presentation online from June 28 through July 11!

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I should have guessed the ending of The Secret of the Chimneys, the latest Miss Marple episode on PBS on Sunday, June 20, but I so enjoyed going along for the ride that I deliberately missed the cues until the very end.  The mysterious County Ludwig Von Stainach wishes to purchase The Chimneys, a house that has seen better days. Assembled at the mansion are a motley sort, even for a Miss Marple mystery. Once again things go bump in the night and someone is murdered.

Enter Finch, Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard. Played by the divine Stephen Dillane, who portrayed Schmidt in God on Trial and Thomas Jefferson in John Adams. Finch is a particularly refreshing official, for he respects Miss Marple’s detective skills and consults her as they both, well, she solves the mystery.

I won’t spoil the plot for you other than to say that this was one of the more satisfying Miss Marple mysteries that I have watched. If you missed the episode, or would like to see it again, PBS will show it online from June 21 to July 4th.

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Miss MarpleYour own DVD set of Marple, Series 4 is available for shipping today! Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth is brilliantly played by Julia McKenzie in this delightful mystery series. Julia as Miss Marple dons the traditional tweeds as if they were made for her, and the casts for all four episodes are stellar: Matthew MacFadyen, Rupert Graves, Wendy Richard, Hattie Morahan, Sylvia Simms, Anna Chancellor, Jemma Redgrave, Russell Tovey, Amanda Root, Elliot Cowan, Joan Collins, and Nigel Terry are among the suspects and victims. This set of finely produced DVDs, issued by Acorn Media, includes the following episodes:


Who poisoned wealthy businessman Rex Fortescue? Miss Marple barely has time to ponder this question before her former maid Gladys turns up strangled on the Fortescue estate, a clothes peg stuck on her nose. The murders seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a child’s nursery rhyme. Miss Marple and Inspector Neele uncover clues from the dead man’s shadowy past that may reveal a method to the madness. Go to the PBS page to read about this episode.


Murder is easy, as long as nobody thinks it’s murder. So says elderly Miss Pinkerton to Miss Marple during a chance encounter on a train. Soon Miss Pinkerton herself dies, and Miss Marple believes that it was no accident. Her curiosity piqued, she travels to the peaceful village of Wychwood-under-Ashe to investigate. Charming her way into village life, she befriends a former policeman and discovers a shocking secret—one worth killing for.  Read the recap on Austenprose


Miss Marple’s old friend Carrie-Louise has always had a soft heart for charitable causes. This time it’s juvenile criminals, lodged in a reformatory on the estate she shares with her husband. But her sister, Ruth van Rydock, is worried about her and asks Miss Marple to pay a visit. With her sharp eyes and unerring sleuthing skills, Miss Marple quickly assesses the situation—but not in time to prevent a murder. Can she save her friend from becoming the next victim? Read the synopsis and about the cast in this PBS link.


A dying man’s last words turn young Bobby Attfield into an amateur detective. With the help of two assistants, beautiful socialite Frankie Derwent and family friend Jane Marple, he sets out to solve the riddle they pose. When someone tries to kill Bobby, it only strengthens his resolve. A trail of clues leads the unlikely trio to Castle Savage and its strange inhabitants, the discovery of yet another murder, and the lingering question: why didn’t they ask Evans? Read our review in this link.

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synopsis_askevans_01Gentle readers, Afficionados of Agatha Christie mysteries will have one more chance to see an original Miss Marple mystery on Masterpiece Mystery! this Sunday. My good friend Hillary Major has reviewed the last episode. What did she think? She thought it was well worth her while, as did I. See this episode on Sunday, July 26th, at your local PBS television station. The series airs 9 pm local time.

When vicar’s son Bobby Jones (Sean Biggerstaff) discovers a dying man abandoned on a Welsh cliffside, he is determined to elucidate the man’s cryptic final words: “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Fortunately, Bobby has help — from childhood friend (and romantic interest), the impetuous Lady Frances “Frankie” Derwent (played by Georgia Moffett), and from an old friend of the family, just arrived in town for a visit.

Miss Marple doesn’t appear in Agatha Christie’s mystery novel Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (first published in the U.S. as The Boomerang Clue), but the good-humoured tension between the mild-mannered detective and the eager young pair of would-be gumshoes makes the opening of this Masterpiece Theatre episode sparkle. While critics could argue, with some merit, that Miss Marple’s presence is extraneous to the plot and that, in fact, the stakes would be higher if her protégés were forced to discover the truth on their own, it is hard to complain when Julia McKenzie is on the screen. Miss Marple may appear to be absorbed in her knitting, but McKenzie’s bright eyes are keenly tracking Bobby and Frankie at they plot to uncover the criminal, and soon Miss Marple is an acknowledged co-conspirator. Viewers of many ages will feel a bit smug when Miss Marple proves, time and again throughout the episode, that older is wiser when it comes to solving mysteries.


The search for the murderer sends Bobby, Frankie, and Miss Marple “undercover” to the Savage family estate, where suspects abound — the recently widowed and seemingly out-of-touch matriarch Sylvia Savage; the suspiciously ubiquitous psychiatrist; Mr. Evans, former business associate of the deceased and, like most orchid-lovers in fiction, just a bit creepy; not to mention the truly creepy Thomas Savage, a teenager who spends most of his time with his pet snake. Then there are the psychiatrist’s beautiful but disturbed wife and the handsome young piano teacher, who between them manage to complicate Bobby and Frankie’s blooming courtship.

Immune to such distractions, it is Miss Marple who begins to suspect that the heart of the matter may lie in the Savage family’s past, in time spent in China between the world wars. Christie has cleverly used the personal drama to illustrate a larger, societal guilt surrounding Britain’s post-WWII relationship with China. As one of her characters puts it in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, when Britain withdrew their presence they “practically gave it to the Japanese.” While this political issue creates an underlying frisson in the episode, the focus really is on individual crimes and their consequences, as the Savage history is revealed.

Although a few of the plot point may stretch the viewer’s credulity (like the chance meeting of Bobby and Frankie at the beginning of the episode or Bobby’s semi-successful impersonation of a chauffeur), overall, the mystery is well-structured and makes for an action-filled hour-and-a-half. With eye-catching cinematography, strong acting, and a complicated knot to unravel, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? will be appreciated by many a Sunday-evening armchair sleuth.

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Retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam and Miss Marple looking for clues

Retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam and Miss Marple looking for clues

I’ve held off reviewing this excellent series showing on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! until I got a good sense of how well Julia McKenzie fares as the observant elderly sleuth, and I find that she plays the character true to form. Julia’s Miss Marple reminds me of the smart but deferential women of my grandmother’s generation who stand on the sidelines but whose power lay in maneuvering others into action or thinking their way. In PBS’s new Miss Marple series, Julia’s mousy character can easily disappear into the woodwork as she takes on the role of keen observer. She never oversteps her boundaries with the detectives who arrive on the scene to solve a case. And what fine detectives they are! This season we have Matthew MacFadyen as Inspector Neele,  Benedict Cumberbatch as retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam, Alex Jennings as Inspector Curry, and Warren Clarke as Commander Peters. While these men are quite capable, they lack Miss Marple’s “insider” knowledge, as she has a knack for being at the right place at the wrong time, as it were. They also lack her female intuition, which prompts her to notice those tiny details that men often miss, such as a redhead not choosing to dye her hat red.

Wendy Richard as Mrs. Crump

Wendy Richard as Mrs. Crump

If I lived in Great Britain and I saw Miss Marple heading towards my village, I’d get into my Bentley and run, for everywhere Miss Marple goes, murder follows. In Murder is Easy so many victims fell, that I wondered if the village would have to be abandoned for lack of inhabitants.

The biggest treat in watching this finely produced series is to see the familiar stable of British actors who people the lovely villages in which the plots thicken. In addition to the detectives, we get to watch Rupert Graves, Hattie Morahan, Prunella Scales, Anna Chancellor, Amanda Root, Jemma Redgrave, Russel Tovey, Joan Collins, Elliot Cowan, Maxine Peak, Nigel Terry, well, the list goes on and on. We’ve seen all these familiar faces before on BBC, ITV, and PBS productions, and so we know that the quality of the acting will be superb. And then there are the shots of the British countryside, the beautiful costumes of pre-World War II Britain, and the exquisite mansions and their interiors. A cup of tea, my pooch on my lap, and Miss Marple is all the entertainment I need to relax on a Sunday night.

Matthew MacFadyen and Julia McKenzie

Matthew MacFadyen and Julia McKenzie

joan collinsMy enjoyment of the series does not blind me to the dated quality of these Agatha Christie plots. Also, Miss Marple is a woman of her time, and seeing how she boosts the egos of the males around her and makes polite “suggestions” that lead the inspectors in the right direction makes me cringe. This is how smart women once lived and how many women still get their point across – through manipulation. The murders are often solved through coincidences that are sometimes too convenient, and the mysteries themselves are contrived, too convoluted, and in many instances, weak. Despite all the red herrings thrown my way, in two out of three instances I had solved the murder halfway through the show, but I am being picky. I still prefer a good Agatha Christie mystery over almost anything aired on the cultural wasteland that t.v. has become. For production value I give this murder series. 5 stars. For entertainment, 4 stars. For quality of mystery, 3 stars.

Watch the series online:

DVDMissed the first three episodes? You can watch two episodes online on PBS’s website at this link. The DVD, which will come out soon as well, will feature all four episodes:

  1. A Pocketful of Rye
  2. Murder is Easy
  3. They Do it With Mirrors
  4. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Order the Poirot Set 4 DVD’s from Acorn Media. Click here.

More About the Series

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