I enjoyed this rather energetic episode of the recent Miss Marple series. There was the usual assemblage of good British actors and a storyline that didn’t give it all away until the end (although suspicions ran high!)
In this episode Miss Marple (Geraldine McEwan) spends a couple of days at the Bertram’s Hotel, which she recalls staying at as a child in the late 1890s. (I found the setting refreshing as at least there wasn’t just a few people in a lonely place getting popped off one by one!) She is there to meet an old friend Lady Selina Hazy (Francesca Annis) who is visiting for the reading of a will of her millionaire second cousin, who owned Bertram’s and has just been declared legally dead after being missing for seven years.
Also there for the reading are this relation’s daughter, Elvira Blake (Emily Beecham) with her good friend Bridget (Mary Nighy), and Elvira’s mother Bess Sedgewick (Polly Walker). Elvira and Bess are hardly on speaking terms and everyone seems to hate Bess. Other visitors at the hotel are twins Jack and Joel (Nicholas Burns), hat designer Mutti (Danny Webb), foreigner Malinowski (Ed Stoppard), Canon Pennyfather (Charles Kay), and jazz singer Amelia Walker (Mica Paris). Staff at the hotel include maids Tilly (Hannah Spearritt) and Jane (Martine McCutcheon), doorman Micky Gorman (Vincent Regan).
At the beginning all is hustle and bustle as guests arrive and an impromptu performance by jazz singer Amelia Walker along with a purported Louis Armstrong causes a small crowd to gather. Into this walks Bess Sedgewick at which everything stops for a moment before resuming. Guests are still arriving and to add to the chaos, the visiting hat designer Mutti, faints at something or someone he sees in the foyer of the hotel. The maid Tilly is sought out by her friend Jane, who notes a new bracelet that Tilly has bought for herself with money gained in some, not quite “straight” way. Bess gets a shock to see doorman Micky and it is obvious they have some connection. She also begins to get death-threat letters.
The next morning Tilly is found dead on the roof and Inspector Bird (Stephen Mangan) arrives on the scene to start investigations. During the day the will reading takes place in the office of a solicitor who seems to have close connections to the manager of Bertram’s, and Elvira notes a painting (Rembrandt copy) that is in the office is the same as one she saw in the foyer of the hotel. Bess believes there is something sly going on with the accounts of her ex-husband’s business interests and demands to see the books the following day.
That night there is a shooting aimed at Bess (or Elvira) and when doorman Micky goes to get her out of the firing line, he is killed by the sniper. The same night Lady Selina’s jewels are stolen from out of her safe.
More investigations by the now slightly bumbling Inspector who is starting to listen avidly to Miss Marple’s suggestions and the deductions made by the amateur sleuth, the maid Jane.
Of course there are plots, sub plots and everything else you want to throw at it. I have read that it wasn’t a sincere or even remotely faithful adaptation of the book, but not having read the book, I just enjoyed the show for what it appeared to be.
Geraldine McEwan took a bit of a back seat in this episode, although she still gives directions from her vantage point. Martine McCutcheon (the Prime Minister’s assistant and love interest from Love Actually) plays her part as the amateur sleuth nicely and I enjoyed watching her. Francesca Annis (I last saw her as Lady Ingram in BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006) could not be expected to play any part poorly and so I was far from disappointed at her inclusion. Stephen Mangan played the increasingly confused Inspector very believably (I think I like bumbling police!!)
A good one to watch if, like me, you have no expectations!