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From The Blog
October 25, 2014
Fatal Footlights: The Theater Mystery
Michael Nethercott
October 24, 2014
(Brain) Food for Worms: Halloween at Criminal Element
Crime HQ
October 22, 2014
John Wayne Turned Cop: McQ and Brannigan
Edward A. Grainger
October 22, 2014
The Cowboy Rides Away: John Wayne and The Shootist (1976)
Jake Hinkson
October 22, 2014
In the Kitchen with Walter W.
Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Leslie Gilbert Elman click to see Leslie Gilbert Elman's profile
Oct 20 2014 4:15pm

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...]

Oct 14 2014 10:30am

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...]

Oct 6 2014 5:00pm

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...]

Sep 30 2014 9:00am

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.

Sep 29 2014 4:15pm

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...]

Sep 26 2014 8:45am

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.

Sep 23 2014 10:30am

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...]

Sep 23 2014 10:00am

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...]

Sep 8 2014 4:00pm

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...]

Sep 2 2014 10:45am

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...]

Aug 26 2014 4:00pm

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...]

Aug 21 2014 9:15am

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?

Aug 5 2014 9:45am

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...]

Jul 28 2014 9:30am

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...]

Jul 22 2014 11:15am

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...]

Jul 15 2014 10:15am

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...]

Jul 14 2014 8:45am

Death Becomes Her, Or is it That Fabulous Veil?

“Death Becomes Her,” the fall exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center presents a stitch-by-stitch account of what the well-dressed widow was wearing a century or two ago.

There were rules for such things, naturally, and we can thank high-profile mourners, such as Queen Victoria and her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra for elevating the social importance of mourning attire. (Mourning gowns belonging to each woman will be part of the exhibition.)

Yet according to Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, mourning wasn’t always seen simply as a bereaved wife’s dedication to her departed spouse. “The veiled widow  could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances,” he says. “As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Just who was she peering at through her long black veil?

Death Becomes Her” runs from October 21, 2014 to February 1, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Jul 8 2014 11:00am

Endeavour 2.02: “Nocturne”

Call this episode “Morse Goes Gothic.” The opening credits make it clear we’re not dealing only with the here and now, which, in Endeavour time, is 1966. The dead bodies of Victorian youngsters and their nursemaid littering a croquet lawn should be a clue. (Blood dripping slowly down the side of a pram is an inspired touch.)

For football fans of the sort Morse would know, 1966 lives forever as the year England both hosted and won the World Cup. Presumably all eyes, with the exception of Morse’s baby blues, were on the telly watching the England squad do their thing. However, national pride can’t stand in the way of murder. Thus, we begin this episode with the murder of a man visiting the Museum of Natural History. His bloody body is found in an off-limits gallery, throat slashed, apparently killed with an Indian dagger called a katar.

Are we surprised that Morse knows nothing about the football but possesses more than average knowledge about Indian daggers? Of course not.

He thinks the weapon is an odd choice for slashing a man’s throat, being more of a stabbing weapon intended to pierce through armor.

[Morse has other ways to surprise us...]

Jul 1 2014 11:30am

Endeavour 2.01: “Trove”

Word to the wise: You’d better be on your toes when you’re dealing with Endeavour.

If you’d forgotten this, the first two minutes of “Trove” will remind you. They’re a deluge of information: Miss Great Britain participates in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting; Morse undergoes a physical exam; a car pulls into a gas station; a dark-haired young woman reviews the route map of a procession through Oxford; political candidate Barbara Batten makes a campaign speech; someone writes cryptic notes on a hotel memo pad...

And we’re not even through the opening credits!

If there was ever a show to record, rewind, and rewatch, it’s Endeavour. Clues are everywhere, and while you’re concentrating on scanning the screen for visual hints or hunting for Morse creator Colin Dexter’s cameo (Did you spot him?), you’re missing the verbal clues and rapid-fire dialog provided by series creator/writer Russell Lewis.

I’ll admit I did quite a lot of rewinding on this one, partly because I’m a little out of condition Morse-wise (it’s been a year after all) and partly because there really is an awful lot going on in this episode including blind alleys, red herrings, and a couple of deductions that still have me wondering how we traveled from point A to point B.

[But that’s neither here nor there...]

Jun 23 2014 12:30pm

Masterpiece Mystery: The Escape Artist: Episode 2

Remember that fabulous life Will Burton was living in Episode 1 of The Escape Artist?

Right. Neither does he.

All it took was the smallest gesture toward the wrongest person to shatter Will’s world. The wrongest person being the skin-crawlingly icky murderer Liam Foyle.

“We may dislike Mr. Foyle, but we don’t have to like him to defend him,” Will pronounced with such objective certainty in the first episode.

Well, he’s not objective anymore, and he’s only certain about one thing: he wants someone to pay for the crime that has caused him such grief. That’s ironic, since Will has spent his whole professional life helping criminals avoid precisely the sort of justice he’s seeking now.

The proverbial shoe is on the other foot.

[And it’s the wrong size...]