Our normal, serene helicopter view of the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds, usually accompanied by pleasant background music, is not the opening for “Hell's Bells.” Instead, we arrive at the village to the soundtrack of really bad church bells and see everyone in the outdoor seating area of the pub wincing. One man even stuffs a twisted napkin into his ears to block out the noise.
Cut to the bell pullers, who are practicing their…let’s still call it a song, even though it resembles nothing remotely musical. All of our favorite villagers are there, including Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) and Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). We find out they are preparing for the bishop’s visit and being coached by Amanda Barton (Sally Bretton). Amanda is new to the village, and the show, which as we know in the mystery game, does not bode well for the longevity of the character. When we also see that the vicar’s wife, Sarah Bloxby (Lucy Liemann), doesn’t like Amanda—and is clearly jealous of the time she spends with her husband—we really suspect that Amanda’s days in Carsely are numbered. After all, someone has to be sacrificed in order that Agatha has a murder to solve.
Agatha spends the day riding horses with Amanda and getting to know her better, giving us some background information on Sarah Bloxby’s rival. Later that night, Agatha snoozes on the couch while Gemma (Katy Wix) and her daughter watch a movie. She wakes up to the sound of the church bells and jumps into action. She thinks it’s a rehearsal she’s missing and rushes out of the house, dragging Gemma and her daughter along. They find Amanda hanging from one of the bell pulls, and there is a suicide note pinned to the wall in what turns out to be Amanda’s handwriting.
Agatha and Gemma sit on the church pew waiting for the police to remove the body, and Agatha is distraught over Amanda’s death. We’re treated to one of the shows signature touching scenes that turns into a comedic one.
“I only saw her this morning and I was thinking how like me she was. She’d come to the Cotswolds to create a perfect life,” says Agatha sadly.
“She was nothing like you,” answers her friend Gemma.
“She was,” says Agatha. “She didn’t have any children. She was single. And yet available. Fast approaching middle age.”
To which Gemma replies, “You’re not fast approaching middle age.”
“Thanks,” says Agatha, clearly relieved.
“You’ve been there years,” says Gemma.
Agatha and Gemma continue to be partners in crime, even after Gemma’s dig on her age, and they search Amanda’s house for clues. They find a brand new saddle sitting by the door, one that she ordered before she died—proof to Agatha that she didn’t kill herself. The ladies hide when they hear someone coming and see Jez (Rhashan Stone), the vicar, in the house searching through the papers on the desk. Agatha now has suspect #1. But, if we know Aggie, she’ll suspect at least four more people before the day is out.
Their investigation brings several disturbing facts to light: Amanda was receiving money for a divorce settlement, even though she told everyone she was a widow; she was in debt up to her eyeballs; and her Dad hanged himself when his business went downhill. Hmmm, suicide might run in the family?
Agatha still suspects murder, and she asks James Lacey (Jamie Glover) to investigate with her. He refuses to play detective, and she’s a bit put out. We know that she just wants his help so she can spend time with him, even though he continues to date Mary Fortune (Daisy Beaumont). If James isn’t available, there’s only one person to turn to, and Aggie calls her friend Roy (Mathew Horne) to ask him to research Amanda’s dad’s suicide.
Meanwhile, back at the Vicarage, the Bishop arrives and says he found an irregularity in the accounts. When Jez sold some of the land surrounding the church in order to repair the bell tower, some of the money went missing. Jez looks worried, keeping him in the suspect #1 position.
Mrs. Bloxby and Agatha locate and visit Amanda’s ex-husband, who is very much alive, and they hear about a completely different side to Amanda. He tells them that she was a liar and extremely manipulative. Clearly, there was no love lost between them. Amanda basically married him when her father topped himself, as the Brits say, and left her with nothing. She got tired of the hubby and subsequently left him.
All of the information they’re collecting is getting overwhelming, so Aggie and Roy start one of their trusty mood boards, complete with post-it notes and string. These boards play a part in each episode and are a throwback to Agatha’s days as a public relations executive.
Fun Fact: “Hell’s Bells” is actually based on a short story by M.C. Beaton, rather than on of her full-length books.
The more episodes we see, the more the characters really take on a life of their own. I still find myself comparing the characters from the books to those on screen, and the show has cast them quite well. Ashley Jensen really owns the character, much like Essie Davis does Phryne Fisher.
Kerry Hammond loves all types of mysteries. She is a Book Reviewer and Blogger for Mystery Playground. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhammond88.