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From The Blog
November 24, 2014
Lost Classics of Noir: Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders
Brian Greene
November 24, 2014
Headlining This Year's Frozen Turkey Drop
Crime HQ
November 23, 2014
Reviewing the Queue: Enemy (2013)
Joe Brosnan
November 23, 2014
The Stand Alones: Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere
Jake Hinkson
November 21, 2014
We Are Batman: Legends of the Knight
Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Leslie Gilbert Elman click to see Leslie Gilbert Elman's profile
Mon
Nov 17 2014 3:00pm

Salting the Battlefield: Worricker’s Conclusion

Johnny Worricker is always well-dressed, as seen in Salting the Battlefield on Masterpiece Contemporary.

Worricker (Bill Nighy) is on the run, now in Germany with ex-spy, ex-love Margot (Helena Bonham Carter) by his side. They’re stirring the embers of their faded romance and recalling all the quirks and peccadilloes they once found so endearing. (He doesn’t wash the lettuce properly! How adorable is that?) They live out of suitcases, yet seem to wind up nattily attired in some snazzy digs. It’s all a lark, really.

Still, Margot longs to return to England. And Worricker’s daughter (Felicity Jones) is due to give birth any moment, which gives him a reason to pine for home as well. This poses a dilemma. Going home would place them in the way of Prime Minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes), whom Worricker has embarrassed with accusations of financial and ethical impropriety.

Meanwhile, Worricker’s old colleague in the spy game Jill Tankard (Judy Davis) is performing all sorts of machinations that confirm the primary thesis of the Worricker series: The intelligence services run everything.

[Actually, a little intelligence would be welcome...]

Mon
Nov 10 2014 3:30pm

Turks & Caicos: The Return of Worricker

“I used to be able to open the bonnet, take out a wrench and fix my car. Now I need a degree in electronics. Even easy things are difficult now,” a character tells Johnny Worricker in Turks & Caicos, which airs on Masterpiece Contemporary this week.

Difficult or intentionally incomprehensible? I say it’s more the latter.

Writer-director David Hare is back with Part 2 of a trilogy that began with Page Eight in 2011. Our erstwhile hero is Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy), ex-gentleman spy. After doing something to annoy the British prime minister in Page Eight, Johnny’s now living in forced retirement in Turks and Caicos, a cluster of islands about 650 miles from Miami. He’s relaxing after a fashion: sitting on the beach in a long-sleeved black shirt and slacks, introducing a local kid to what looks suspiciously like a Maine lobster, and reading an aged copy of A Farewell to Arms.

Enter Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken), a peculiar American who invites Worricker for drinks and introduces him to a group of nefarious businessmen from New Jersey (Gasp!). They’re all involved in some sort of difficult/intentionally incomprehensible money scheme tied to various governments and intelligence agencies all of which are corrupt.

[It only gets more complicated from here...]

Mon
Nov 3 2014 3:00pm

Death Comes to Pemberley: Part 2

George Wickham is in jail facing trial for the murder of his best friend, Captain Denny. He says he didn’t do it and we believe him, but without a more likely perpetrator Wickham will swing for the crime.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is distraught believing that Darcy will blame her for bringing Wickham back into their lives. She’s fretful. He’s distant. They bicker unkindly over the betrothal of Darcy’s sister Georgiana to Colonel Fitzwilliam or Henry Alveston. They are not behaving like the Elizabeth and Darcy everyone loves to love.

All around them, things are most confusing and un-Austen-like, making Part 2 of Death Comes to Pemberley a bit of a muddle.

[Where are their manners?]

Mon
Oct 27 2014 1:30pm

Death Comes to Pemberley: Part 1

Elizabeth Bennet married Fitzwilliam Darcy and lived happily ever after...

...at least until a dead soldier was found on the grounds of their estate at Pemberley.

Jane Austen didn’t foresee things working out quite this way in 1813 when she brought together Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

P.D. James had a different vision when she continued their tale in her 2011 bestseller Death Comes to Pemberley.

Thus we open in a most Austen-like way, with Elizabeth and Darcy preparing to host Lady Anne’s Ball, a tradition begun by Darcy’s late mother and now regarded as the county’s most important social event of the year. They’re in love, they dote on their rambunctious son “Master Fitzwilliam,” and they live in splendor. (Castle Howard was used for the interior scenes at Pemberley and Chatsworth House for the exteriors.)

It’s all just too perfect. And you know P.D. James can’t have that.

[Enter, the bloody corpse...]

Mon
Oct 20 2014 3:15pm

Inspector Lewis: “Beyond Good and Evil”

Was Inspector Lewis responsible for sending an innocent man to prison thirteen years ago?

Of course not. This is Lewis we’re talking about. He would never. (And no one really believes he did.)

Yet doubts are raised when it’s revealed that the forensic lab contaminated DNA from the original case. Now the convicted murderer—who’s protested his innocence all along—could go free. And Lewis is left to explain why and how the murders could have started up again if the right man is behind bars.

[I blame Nietzsche...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 9:30am

Inspector Lewis: “Lions of Nemea”

It’s all Greek to me, and to you, in this episode as we dust off Sophocles and Euripides for tales of hubris, and vengeance, and murder.

We know virtually nothing about Felix Garwood (John Light), he’s barely said a word (it’s still the opening credits, after all), yet we’re already aware that he’s an embodiment of hubris. He’s talking on his cell while cycling through Oxford, ignoring traffic laws and common courtesy, and generally being a entitled jerk. So, when he’s deliberately sideswiped by a car, it’s easy to figure he’d probably done something to deserve it. Chalk one up for vengeance.

Next stop, murder. But whose?

[Time will explain it all...]

Mon
Oct 6 2014 4:00pm

Inspector Lewis: “Entry Wounds”

“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front) inquires.

“I’m going to the hardware store,” retired Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) replies. “I need some waterproof glue.”

“Exciting,” she says, unconvincingly. “Alternatively, you could figure out why a neurosurgeon has a bullet in his head.”

And just like that, Lewis is back in the fold.

[And there is much rejoicing...]

Tue
Sep 30 2014 8:00am

Coming (Sort of) Soon: Tommy and Tuppence

We’ve seen the last of Miss Marple for a while and David Suchet has given us a complete catalog of Poirot (would that we could see them all on TV).

Must we go Agatha Christie-less into the future? Perish the thought!

Production is in progress on Partners in Crime, a new series based on Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford stories. Says Radio Times:

The crime-solving husband and wife appeared in four of Christie’s books and one collection of short stories. Set in the 1950s, the six-part BBC series will follow the couple’s involvement in murder cases, Cold War conspiracy and the world of undercover agents.

The series stars David Walliams (Little Britain) and Jessica Raine (Jenny from Call the Midwife). Two stories will be dramatized—N or M and The Secret Adversary. They’re set to air in the U.K. next year, in time for the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth. It seems likely that Tommy and Tuppence will make their way to the U.S., too.

Mon
Sep 29 2014 3:15pm

Miss Marple: “Endless Night”

Miss Marple raises lots of questions. The most pertinent right now is: What is she doing in this story?

Endless Night is a real suspense tale, told from the point of view of an opportunistic young man. Published in 1967, the novel was a hit with readers, not least because it was such a departure from Agatha Christie’s familiar style. Said The Observer at the time, “...the suspense is kept up all the way and Miss Christie's new demi-tough, streamlined style really does come off. She'll be wearing black leather pants next, if she isn't already.”

Does that sound Marple-y to you?

Agatha Christie didn’t put Miss Marple into Endless Night, quite rightly, as she doesn’t belong there. The story works beautifully on its own.

[But she’s such a nice lady and hardly takes up any room...]

Fri
Sep 26 2014 7:45am

David Suchet Investigates Agatha Christie

If Hercule Poirot isn’t available, who better than David Suchet to investigate the colorful and mysterious life of Agatha Christie? This Sunday, after Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery most Public Television stations will air The Mystery of Agatha Christie, a documentary on  her life and work. (Check your local listings for dates and times in your area.)

The description says:

Suchet’s journey takes him to the places Christie lived and the landscapes that inspired her... He explores the close links between Christie’s extraordinary life and her work and discovers what it was about the woman from a small seaside town that allowed her to become the best-selling murder mystery writer in history.

Stops include Blackpool Sands, one of Dame Agatha’s favorite spots for relaxation; and the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, her hiding place during her mysterious disappearance in December 1926.

Set “The Clocks.” This sounds like “Appointment (with Death)” television it would be a “(Three Act) Tragedy” to miss.

Tue
Sep 23 2014 9:30am

Miss Marple: “Greenshaw’s Folly”

It was a dark and stormy night when Louisa Oxley (Kimberley Nixon) arrived at the door of her “Aunt” Jane in the village of St. Mary Mead. “Aunt Jane will look after us,” Louisa promised Archie, the spirited little boy in a duffle coat, who was traveling with her.

Naturally, Aunt Jane—our beloved Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie)—takes them in. She doesn’t ask too many questions, but it’s clear that Louisa has fled her husband—Archie’s father—and that he isn’t a very nice man. Next day, or thereabouts, Miss Marple has Louisa and Archie situated in Greenshaw’s Folly, where Louisa will work as a secretary for Katherine Greenshaw (Fiona Shaw).

Miss Greenshaw is a chemist now fulfilling her life’s ambition to compile a codex of medicinal plants. Her eyesight is failing and she needs the help Louisa will provide. Louisa is happy for the job and for a safe place to live. Archie is thrilled to have the run of the place, except for an old laboratory that’s strictly off-limits. It’s a perfect arrangement for all of them. Until someone dies.

[A murder interrupts...]

Tue
Sep 23 2014 9:00am

Miss Marple: “A Caribbean Mystery”

When can murder be an almost pleasant event? When Miss Marple is on the case.

This time she’s on the Caribbean island of St. Honoré for her rheumatism, vacationing at a small hotel called the Golden Palm among the standard array of characters/suspects: grumpy old men, flirty young women, dissatisfied married couples, a dogmatic man of the cloth and, weirdly, Ian Fleming. But we’ll get to that later.

At dinner one evening, Miss Marple is seated beside Major Palgrave (Oliver Ford Davies), a bit of a gasbag, but harmless enough. He’s boring her silly, until he hits on her favorite topic of conversation: murder. He happens to have a pocketful of photographs of people who’ve committed murder, some more than once. Then just as he’s about to show her the snaps, the major loses his train of thought. Or appears to. Miss Marple has her doubts.

When he’s found dead the next morning, apparently of natural causes, she has her doubts about that too.

[Question everything...]

Mon
Sep 8 2014 3:00pm

Breathless: Part 3

This week’s final episode of Breathless on Masterpiece Mystery is also the final episode of the series. It wasn’t renewed. So, if you love it that might come as disappointing news.

At least the series creators did viewers the service of clearing up a few puzzling plot points. Issues are resolved. Characters evolve. Even the despicable Dr. Richard Truscott (Oliver Chris) demonstrates believable and reassuring signs of humanity.

Lots of secrets are revealed both to the audience and the characters.

But, here’s the thing about secrets: They are only intriguing if they involve information that’s worth keeping secret.  If after the big reveal your reaction is, “Yeah. And?” the secret hasn’t delivered to expectations. It’s like the guy who corners you at a party and asks, “Want to hear something funny?” You just know you’re going to have to fake a chuckle when he’s through talking.

[Heh, heh, heh...sigh...]

Tue
Sep 2 2014 9:45am

Breathless: Part 2

In Episode 2 of Breathless on Masterpiece Mystery:

Richard Truscott (Oliver Chris) has gone to visit Margaret (Sarah Parish), as you knew he would.

Jean (Zoe Boyle), the new Mrs. Truscott, is back helping Otto Powell (Jack Davenport) and Charlie Enderbury (Shaun Dingwall) with their moonlight operation, as you might have suspected she would. This time the emphasis really is on “operation,” because the patient at the start of this episode requires hospitalization for internal bleeding after a botched attempt to terminate a pregnancy.

There’s trouble aplenty for everyone associated with the New London Hospital. Plus lots of proof that the 1960s were not pretty, kids.

[But the fashions are fabulous...]

Tue
Aug 26 2014 3:00pm

Breathless: Part 1

Mad Men with doctors. That must have been the elevator pitch (lift pitch?) for Breathless, the three-part series that started on Masterpiece Mystery on August 24. For all I know the working title was “Harley Men,” scrapped later when it was determined that American audiences would be expecting motorcycles and not Harley Street physicians.

Now stop me if you’ve heard this one...

It’s the Swingin’ Sixties.

Our main character is a dapper, dark-haired charmer named Otto Powell (Jack Davenport), who’s as smooth and impenetrable as the Teflon-coated pans that are about to make life a dream for every modern housewife in the 1960s. Everything always works out for Otto. How does he do it?

Elizabeth (Natasha Little), his wife and mother of 8-year-old Thomas, is icy blond perfection.

His workplace is filled with ambitious men and tempting women; the fiery redhead Jean (Zoe Boyle), and clever, aloof brunette Angela (Catherine Steadman) included.

They’re living the life—cocktails and cigarettes (lots of cigarettes; oh, the irony ’cause they’re doctors!)—but there’s tension beneath the real artificial wood grain laminate surface.

[Stop. No, don’t stop...]

Thu
Aug 21 2014 8:15am

What Am I Bid for Johnny Depp as Charlie Mortdecai?

Johnny Depp as Charlie MortdecaiMuch has been written, and will be written about Johnny Depp starring as Whitey Bulger in the upcoming film Black Mass. Before that, however, there’s this: Johnny Depp as “amoral art dealer” Charlie Mortdecai in Mortdecai, what appears to be a weird romp based on the weirdly rompish “cult classic” “hilarious and dark-humored crime thrillers” (I quote the book jacket text) by the late British art dealer-turned-author Kyril Bonfiglioli.

The movie is loosely drawn from The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery, a novel started by Bonfiglioli and finished after his death by Craig Brown. A stolen painting and a cache of Nazi loot are involved.

In the first Mortdecai novel, Don’t Point That Thing at Me, published in 1972, Mortdecai describes himself as: “in the prime of life, if that tells you anything, of barely average height, of sadly over-average weight and... possessed of the intriguing remains of rather flashy good looks.” What do you think? Does that sound like Johnny Depp?

Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s manservant Jock Strapp (yes, I know) and, sadly, we must endure Gwyneth Paltrow “doing” an English accent, but at least there’s Ewan McGregor as Inspector Martland.

The movie is set for release in February. Take a look at the trailer. Are you in or are you out?

Tue
Aug 5 2014 8:45am

Poirot: “Dead Man’s Folly”

“Come at once,” the telegram reads. “Need help. Urgent.”

Poirot obeys at once. He would not leave his old friend the crime writer Ariadne Oliver in distress, even if that means leaving London for the wilds of Devon where Ariadne is a guest at a country estate.

Devon certainly is not Poirot’s preferred milieu. Agatha Christie, on the other hand, adored it. Most of this episode was filmed on the grounds of Greenway, Dame Agatha’s country home, which is now a National Trust property.

The cast said they had a wonderful time filming at Greenway, the place that inspired the goings-on in Christie’s 1956 novel Dead Man’s Folly. Between takes, they walked the grounds in costume—and in David Suchet’s case, in character—and encountered tourists who (lucky them!) ended up with a more memorable visit to Greenway than they ever could have expected.

[Going out in style...]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 8:30am

Poirot: “The Big Four”

The “Big Four” has a particular meaning in this episode of Poirot, but to those of us who love him as played by David Suchet, the “Big Four” can only refer to Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser), Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson), the inestimable Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran), and the brilliant Belgian himself. (No offense to George the butler, but how often does he actually leave the flat?)

To my delight, and perhaps to yours, Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon, and Japp—as well as George (David Yelland)—all appear in the opening minutes of this episode.

To my horror, and perhaps to yours, they all were preparing to attend Poirot’s funeral.

Pourriez-vous répéter, s'il vous plaît,” you say.

I repeat: Oui, mes amis, Poirot’s funeral.

A few seconds later we are transported to a date four weeks earlier to learn how an affair so tragique could have occurred.

[It is news so devastating as to be unthinkable...]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 10:15am

Endeavour 2.04: Season Finale “Neverland”

The final episode of Endeavour Series 2 was a corker.

We don’t do spoilers on Masterpiece Mystery programs, but I would suggest that you go and watch “Neverland” right now if you haven’t already. Then go back and watch it again, knowing what you know. It’s better the second time.

We begin, as we tend to do, with a montage of characters and situations: DI Thursday is in for his physical exam; a young man, who bears a passing resemblance to Morse himself, is in prison; an Oxford professor lectures on the Siege Perilous in the legend of the Knights of the Round Table; a ventriloquist prepares for a Vaudeville-style show; there’s a benefit for the Police Widows and Orphans; and Morse is in the choir singing “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.” There’s so much going on that Colin Dexter’s cameo flashes by within seconds of the episode’s start.

Then the prisoner escapes, a young boy runs away from home, and Thursday and Morse are off and running.

[Plus ça change as they say...]

Tue
Jul 15 2014 9:15am

Endeavour 2.03: “Sway”

Everyone is wearing a poppy for remembrance, which should give you a clue that this episode will concern the past and the sins committed then. It also concerns a murderer who is very much present in the minds of Morse and his colleagues, and who plans to continue murdering in the future unless they can stop him.

Time is of the essence in “Sway.” The endlessness of time; mathematical infinity; ouroboros, the snake that devours its tail, symbolizing eternity...

Time; and possibly the Rolling Stones, although I’m not certain about the last part.

As the episode begins, a newspaper headline trumpets the case of the moment:  “Woman Strangled – Oxford housewife willingly opened door to killer.” This refers to the murder of Anne Curran Matthews.

At the office, Morse is typing up a report for Chief Superintendent Bright concerning the “amalgamation” of police stations. This might pose a problem for Morse in the future, but it’s certainly not enough to occupy all of his intellect right now. He’s turning over the Curran Matthews case in his mind and associating it with another open case. They’re not identical, but there are similarities.

Moments later, another victim is found. Vivienne Haldane, the wife of an Oxford professor, has been strangled with a silk stocking. (“Not hers,” says Dr. DeBryn.) Physical relations had taken place within an hour or two of death. (“Nothing to say ‘unwillingly,’” says Dr. DeBryn.) And the pieces begin to fall into place for Morse.

There are now three cases involving women who were strangled with silk stockings. More specifically, married women who spend most of their time apart from their husbands and who weren’t wearing their wedding rings when their bodies were found.

[So much for playing Happy Families...]