Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

10/30/2017 at 6:45 AM (Books, Classics, Mystery, TV) (, , )

When I borrowed this book from my local library, I was under the impression this was an Agatha Christie type mystery with a bit more edge. I think Agatha Christie type mysteries are older fashioned compared to Agatha Raisin. The novel ends in a surprising fashion with the protagonist deciding to begin her own agency for ladies.The problem the victim faces is that she is an older, much maligned lady and her claims that her house is being haunted falls on deaf ears when it comes to the local police. Due to her interest in solving crimes, when the old lady is murdered, it makes M.C. Beaton’s Agatha sit up and take interest. For her, the solving of a crime holds more interest because she finds it more fun rather than chasing after ghosts.

Agatha Raisin, comfortable and warm in her cottage, in Carsley has that same old feeling-boredom-until a report of a haunted house sends her and new neighbor, handsome Paul Chatterton, to investigate. Suddenly, middle-aged Agatha is aglow with romance and excitement. But the charm fades fast. It turns out Paul is a cad because he is married to Juanita. The victim of the haunting is a universally disliked old biddy. And the ghost is most likely someone playing a dirty trick. Then an old lady is soon found murdered. For Agatha, solving a homicide is more fun than hunting a ghost. She quickly has a theory and a risky scheme. And she makes a startling discovery which could either be her greatest triumph or leave her heartbroken, in trouble with the police, and in danger of losing her reputation – or her life.

 Agatha is again mesmerised with the latest man living next door Paul Chatterton while she pines under it all for James Lacey. Her older age comes out well when she can’t get up out of a lawn chair gracefully. I like Agatha because she is so very real. I can imagine myself doing what she does just blundering around until something happens. But there is a susceptible side to Agatha, and this was brought out in this book and at times I felt a little sorry for her. As usual Agatha solves the murders, and saves the day, and everything turns out alright in the end. This was #14 in the Agatha Raisin series written by M.C. Beaton.

There is a TV series also based on the much-loved books by M.C Beaton where Cotswold dwelling amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin attempts to solve the mysterious murder cases that seem to plague her community.

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Seasons of Small Wonder

06/20/2014 at 2:50 PM (TV) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Does anybody remember this show? Small Wonder had a ridiculous plot. A robotics engineer named Ted Lawson creates a humanoid robot with child-like features, names her VICI (pronounced as Vicki) and pretends it is his adopted daughter. Most of the show revolves around the robot daughter adapting to human life and his family’s attempts to keep her identity a secret from his nosy, pesky neighbours, the Brindles. To add insult to injury, Mr Brindle ends up being his incompetent boss who takes credit for all of Ted’s ideas. Meanwhile Ted’s son, Jamie, is constantly pestered by Harriet Brindle who has a huge crush on him. However keeping Vicki’s true nature a secret turns out to be difficult as her literal interpretation of human speech has interesting ramifications.

I used to watch this in Sri Lanka. Nostalgia led me to research the name of this show as anyone I mentioned it to in Australia was unaware of it. Turns out this sitcom never aired in Australia. Meanwhile guess what I stumbled on? episodes on Youtube.

Here are my favourite episodes from each season:

In this episode from Season 1 of Small Wonder, Ted Lawson programs Vicky to read content and memorise data. Meanwhile Jamie is more interested in soccer than finishing his history report for school. Jamie, who is not a brilliant student, cunningly employs Vicky’s new ability to complete his homework. It has interesting consequences when Jamie gets placed on the honour roll at school and his teachers begin to look at him in a new light.

In this episode from season 2 of Small Wonder, Joan Lawson enters Vicky into the local shopping mall’s beauty pageant. Ted Lawson is initially against the idea but when he learns Brandon Brindle’s daughter, Harriet, is entering the contest, he has a change of heart. Both girls become finalists in the pageant but Vicky’s demonstration of her talent makes it obvious that she is competition. However the final ruling reveals an unexpected surprise.

In this episode from season 3 of Small Wonder, Joan is substitute teaching for Jamie’s class and requires everyone to submit a book report for a reading challenge and tells them they can deliver it any format. She promises to reward the class if everyone submits the report. Jamie is distracted and spends time filming videos of Vicky instead of reading. So when the due date for the report arrives, his attempt to pretend he completed it gets thwarted. Ted describes the detective story he is reading to Jamie to inspire him. This gets Jamie’s creative juices flowing and he submits an ingenious book report.

In this episode from season 4 of Small Wonder, Ted programs Vicky to understand foreign languages and translate them into English. The family sits down to watch the Spanish channel and a pet show comes up. It turns out Vicky not only understands humans but also animals! Jamie’s entrepreneurial spirit sees a potential for making pocket money and has Vicky diagnose the feelings of the pets of the kids at school. Meanwhile Ted’s timid company manager and his snooty, authoritative wife,  who looks down on Ted and Joan, are coming to dinner  as Ted has volunteered Joan to be on the committee for the company ball. When they arrive with their pet dog, the Lawson’s discover with Vicky’s help, despite her put on airs, the wife’s background isn’t all that different theirs leading to her discomfiture.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge (Film)

10/13/2011 at 2:24 PM (BBC Drama, Books, Classics, Historical, Mystery, Romance, TV) (, , , , , , , , )

I first fell in love with Thomas Hardy novels after reading The Woodlanders. If you are familiar with tales by Hardy, you’ll know this guy probably would have been the master of soap opera storylines if television had been invented in his days but it really is his descriptions that you can’t go beyond due to his skill with evocative prose. Recently I watched The Mayor of Casterbridge, based on his novel of that name, adapted for the silver screen by David Thacker, starring Ciaran Hinds as Michael Henchard, who delivers a stellar, heartbreaking performance in the pivotal last scenes. The captivating and beautiful score set against the lush country backdrop does not hurt. By the way, Casterbridge is a fictional town representing Dorchester. Do note though it is a long production with a running time of almost over three hours so only start watching when you have enough time to spare.

It all begins in a small town where a young hay-trusser named Michael Henchard sells his wife and infant daughter for five guineas, in a bid that begins as a joke but turns serious, after having too much to drink. When he sobers up and realises his folly, he makes an oath not to touch alcohol 21 years, the number of years he has lived, and builds a good life for himself.

Nineteen years later he is a successful agrarian and the mayor of Casterbridge – a town not far from the fair where he sold his family. When his wife Susan (Juliet Aubrey) returns with his daughter Elizabeth-Jane (Jodhi May) because her other “husband” Newson was lost at sea, Henchard is tormented because while he has a chance to atone for his wrongdoing, he is paranoid that his past transgressions will be discovered by the townspeople. His deep-seated need to protect his reputation from past improprieties soon leads to a complex web of deceit and lies involving Henchard, his “mistress” Lucetta (Polly Walker) and his wife. Poor Elizabeth-Jane is an innocent but cannot help being caught in the middle of the ensuing drama.

Meanwhile on the same day his family returns, Henchard meets a Scotsman, Donald Farfrae (James Purefoy), who has developed a technique to restore bad grain.  The mayor persuades Farfrae to become his manager and confesses his secret to the young man. Luckily for him, although his secret is ousted later in court when he is judging a case, Farfrae is an honourable, just and trustworthy man unlike the mayor. So the mayor turns bitter and jealous when his new manager consistently outdoes him.

Like most other works by Hardy, the plot is full of secret revelations, hidden romantic entanglements, family feuds, complicated tangles of lies and business rivalries. What makes this story so interesting is that Henchard, his wife, and his mistress are not bad people but each makes terrible choices of which the aftermath is horrible. There are many themes in this story but the recurring theme is deception. In the end the people who hurt the most are the ones who give rise to it. Henchard’s behavior makes him difficult persona to admire mostly because of his hostility to Elizabeth-Jane after Susan’s letter provided the truth but because in sudden bursts he will do the right thing or tries to enables the audience to feel empathy for him especially when we hear his final will and testament.

I think that was the last straw for me because I felt stinging in my tear ducts and let out the waterworks. If you can stand tragic melodrama, enjoy classics and are able to endure the screen time, you’ll love this production if you can forgive the farfetched plot.


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Daniel Deronda (Film)

09/22/2011 at 2:58 AM (BBC Drama, Books, TV) (, , , , , , , )

Well, I promised I would review a BBC adaptation last week so I’ll tell you about the TV miniseries based on George Eliot’s final novel Daniel Deronda. It is set in the 19th century and was her most controversial body of work because it shows sympathy to the Jewish population of Britain and talks at length about Jewish Zionism. The story centres on two subplots. One stars the beautiful, spirited but selfish Gwendolen Harleth (Romola Garai) and how she meets her comeuppance in the form of her cunning, cruel and manipulative husband Henleigh Grandcourt (Hugh Bonneville). The other is about how Daniel Deronda’s (Hugh Dancy) rescue of Mirah the Jewess (Jodhi May) ultimately shows him what he would like to do with his life after he helps her to find her family. The common thread between these two interconnecting stories is Daniel.

Initially we meet Gwendolen who is a spoilt, rich and beautiful girl but her need to avoid menial tasks when she’s suddenly thrust into poverty leads her to make bad decisions. She decides to accept Henleigh Grandcourt’s proposal of marriage during her time of wealth until she meets his abandoned mistress, Lydia Glasher (Greta Scacchi), who has three children and urges her not to marry the man. When she receives the bad news about her family’s declining wealth, she gambles and after losing pawns her necklace. This necklace is returned to her when she’s leaving by Daniel Deronda who asks her to avoid gambling again. Succumbing to her need for money and financial security and the charms of Henleigh’s wooing of her with presents, she decides to accept his offer of marriage despite not loving him and feeling conflicted inside. On her wedding day, she is cursed by her husband’s former mistress, which increases her panic. It is only after her marriage she finds what a cold and dastardly man her husband is and seeks solace in the form of Daniel’s company.

Daniel Deronda has no idea about his origins because an aristocratic gentleman, the wealthy Sir Hugo Mallinger (Edward Fox), raised him. Most people imagine Daniel to be Sir Hugo’s illegitimate son but we learn there’s more to it than that. Sir Hugo, who is like a surrogate father to Daniel, finds it taxing that the intelligent and compassionate Daniel does not want to go into politics and can’t decide what he wants to do. This all changes when he is boating down the Thames and rescues Mirah Lapidoth from drowning herself. He finds a residence for her at the home of a friend and finds himself moved by her tale of hardship. It is also discovered that Mirah is in possession of a lovely voice and is a singer. He then helps her to locate her visionary but very sick brother Mordecai (Daniel Evans) who tells Deronda his calling in life is to be an advocate for the Jewish people, although he is unaware that Mordecai is her brother from first meeting. Daniel is hesitant to commit to the cause, as it seems to have no relation to his own identity, despite wanting to help him. Meanwhile he gets Mirah in touch with a singing coach who finds her work. During this time, as he’s introduced to the Jewish community of London, Mirah and Daniel grow very close to the disappointment of his friend Hans who harbours love for Mirah.

During a trip to Italy, Grandcourt is knocked into the water from his boat and does not resurface. Gwendolen, who witnessed it, feels very guilty because she had been wishing he would die, although she made a sorry attempt to save him. Deronda, who was also in Italy to meet his mother (Barbara Hershey), whose identity was revealed by Sir Hugo, comforts Gwendolen and gives her advice. Having fallen in love with Daniel, she hopes to marry him, but he encourages her to help others in order to alleviate her suffering instead because after a discussion with his mother about his parentage, he realises his heart belongs to Mirah.

When she learns of this, Gwendolen is upset by the news but uses it as a turning point in her life. On Daniel Deronda’s wedding day as he is sailing for the East with Mirah, she sends him a letter telling him that for having known him she will be a better person.

I felt that this story was more about Gwendolen than Daniel despite the latter being the name of the title! Perhaps it was because Hugh Dancy’s performance while capable was a little lackluster while Romola Garai was outstanding in all except perhaps for her crying – that was oddly done. Nevertheless who really shines is the villain of this piece, Hugh Bonneville, since he really gets typecast into nice guy roles and this different side of him was quite a show. For fans of this genre, all I have to say is you’ll love the storyline on Gwendolen but you might have divisive opinions on the union of Daniel and Mirah given their lack of onscreen chemistry.

Note: review may contain spoilers!

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Wives and Daughters (Film)

09/06/2011 at 1:04 AM (Actors, Anthony Howell, Books, Classics, Iain Glen, Justine Waddell, Keeley Hawes, Rosamund Pike, Tom Hollander, TV) (, , , , , )

Wives and Daughters (based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel of that name) was a BBC drama based on 1930s life in an English provincial town that pleasantly surprised me. If you follow this blog, you know how much I love period drama miniseries. I thought the title was dull so I imagined this story would be equally bland. How wrong I was to make such a decision!

It opens with young Molly Gibson looking for a place to rest at a garden party as her father has gone on an errand; he’s the local doctor. She is taken into the big house of Lady Cumnor and her employed governess, Miss Clare (Francesca Annis) is charged with Molly’s care. The governess makes a big fuss of how kind she is but it’s far from the truth. Molly asks her to alert her father as to her whereabouts but this slips from flighty Miss Clare’s mind and the poor child wakes alone to a house full of complete strangers. Fortunately for Molly, Lady Cumnor arranges for Dr. Gibson (Bill Paterson), a widower, to come and pick her up and she is relieved after her father’s arrival. Molly (Justine Waddell) grows up into a young beauty and her father on realising she is arousing the attention of his apprentice chemist intercepts a note for her and hastily sends her away to stay with Squire Hamley and his sick wife, landed gentry whose circumstances have dwindled. They dote on their eldest son Osbourne, a poet (yes, it’s Mr. Collins from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice), and pay little attention to second son Roger, a man of science.

Molly is impressed when she hears Cambridge student Osbourne (Tom Hollander) – more clever, more fashionable and reputedly more handsome than his brother – being lauded by his parents for his poetry so she has a minor spat with Roger (Anthony Howell) when he bears bad news regarding his brother’s lack of accomplishment. This situation amicably resolves itself later on when Roger consoles Molly after she’s upset at news about her father’s second marriage about which she received no prior warning. Meanwhile Roger does very well in his chosen field. But Molly is aware that as the daughter of a professional man, she cannot expect a union with either of the Hamleys. It turns out that Osbourne had a secret which caused the neglect of his studies – the secret is confided only to Molly and Roger. Meanwhile Mr. Gibson marries mainly to provide a mother for Molly rather than because he’s inclined to marry so in ignorance he selects the unsuitable Mrs. Kirkpatrick , the former Miss Clare, to be his wife. When he begins to live with her, his high estimation of her drops considerably due to her behaviour until he regards her as no more than an annoyance he had brought upon himself. Molly and her stepmother naturally do not get along due to their contrasting natures which are at odds but she does her best to be a dutiful daughter for her father’s sake. If there were illustrations in the dictionary, Molly would be the pictorial entry under the definition of “good”.

Funnily enough, the naive and sweet Molly gets along with her rebellious and conniving stepsister Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), who was educated in France. It becomes clear her stepmother and stepsister have some previous secret involvement with a man of ill repute, land agent Mr. Preston (Iain Glen). Meanwhile heartbroken at the failure of her beloved eldest son, Mrs. Hamley (Penelope Wilton) passes away. It came to my notice that Michael Gambon who plays the Squire is very touching in his performance of farewell scenes. Her death only widens the divide between him and his eldest son. In the middle of these happenings, Molly’s stepmother decides to play matchmaker for Cynthia with Osbourne, having no idea her manuevers and efforts are futile. This does not affect Molly since she has fallen for the charms of Roger. Unfortunately Cynthia has the upper hand in the good looks department and he falls for the wrong girl. After overhearing a confidential discussion the state of Osbourne’s wavering health, the stepmother plots a union between Cynthia and Roger before he leaves for Africa. Molly hears her stepsister who does not even love Roger has accepted his proposal, in secret, and becomes upset. Also she finally discovers the secret Mr. Preston holds over Cynthia and intervenes on her behalf which almost negatively affects her reputation while her stepsister ignores her fiance’s letters – which Molly peruses with fervour – and enjoys society company in London instead. The interference of well-meaning Lady Harriet (Rosamund Pike), who takes Molly under her wing as a protegé, makes amends to the circulating town gossip. When Cynthia returns, she breaks the engagement to Roger deciding she would like to be the wife of a professional gentleman from London, Mr. Henderson despite being rebuked for her hasty decisions.

Convinced the time to meet his maker is drawing near, Osbourne makes an additional confession to Molly. Poor girl has to keep secrets for a lot of people. When tragedy strikes, Molly tells what she knows to the Squire who sees this as a new chance to make reparation for his old mistake after some well-meaning advice from Roger. Meanwhile Roger settles into the local, scientific community and finds that he never realised that the brotherly affection he thought he felt for Molly was an entirely different emotion. This comes to the forefront when he sees Molly dancing with Lady Harriet’s cousin. Feeling unworthy of having professed his love to Cynthia before, he admits his intentions to Dr. Gibson who gives him the go ahead but he is prevented from contacting her due to a scarlet fever scare.

This is where the story deviates from the book as the original had no ending. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly before she completed it so the ending was written by Frederick Greenwood. It is said that she told a friend that she had intended Roger to return and present Molly with a dried flower, a gift to him before his departure, as proof of his enduring love (Sidenote: Thanks, Wikipedia) to contrast with Cynthia’s fickle love. The BBC adaptation uses an alternative ending because Molly and Roger are able to meet once more, despite being unable to touch each other, before he departs again to Africa.

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Little Dorrit (Film)

08/16/2011 at 11:43 AM (Books, Classics, Mystery, Romance, TV) (, , , , , , , )

I have been a little distracted as I’ve been catching up on reading a lot – think I read about eight books in the past week (look forward to more book reviews). But I did manage to find some time to watch Little Dorrit directed by Adam Smith – starring Claire Foy and Matthew MacFadyen – based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Given her timid personality, ‘Little Doormat’ could have been considered more appropriate nomenclature.

Little Dorrit was born in the Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison after her father’s business failed and he was unable to pay off his creditors. Born a gentleman, Mr. Dorrit can’t stand being so low in regard and manages to cultivate a position as the father of the Marshalsea with the aid of the head turnkey, Mr. Chivery (senior). His son, John, is in love with Little Dorrit although her real name is Amy. Her older sister, the snobbish and beautiful Fanny, has a job as a dancer at the theatre while her idle brother, Frederick, is a young wastrel who keeps on losing his positions due to gambling and laziness. Amy finds employment as a seamstress at the old dilapidated mansion called the House of Clennam, run by a cold-hearted, grumpy, paraplegic matriarch called Mrs. Clennam, despite her father’s objections that she is a lady and should not have to work. Meanwhile Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur returns bearing a gold pocket watch and a message – Do Not Forget. His father has requested this as his final wish before his death. Perplexed Arthur asks his mother about the mystery but is cruelly turned away when he discloses that he does not wish to be involved in managing the family business. Before leaving, Arthur notices Amy and wishing to do her some kindness makes some enquiries about her present situation and what can be done for her.

In contrast, we have two side stories which connect with the above plot. One involves the Meagles family who have a beautiful, young daughter of marriageable age. She also has an adopted sister, a coloured child, named Harriet but she is called Tattycoram by the family. Their natural daughter has felt an attachment to Mr. Gowan, an artist, and despite their efforts to unite her with the good-hearted Arthur Clennam, they do not succeed. Meanwhile Harriet feels ill-treated by the family as she’s asked to fetch things, perform tasks and in frustration turns to the mysterious Miss Wade, who seems to be present every time Harriet feels anger at the way she is treated, for friendship. The Meagles do not like this as Miss Wade is widely perceived as someone with a bad influence. We realise this when it turns out she even associates with a French murderer by the name of Rigaud (played by Andy Serkis of LOTR‘s Gollum fame) who gives her some possessions to keep regarding Little Dorrit and her inheritance as well as the truth about the birth of Arthur Clennam so he can blackmail Arthur’s “mother”, Mrs. Clennam.

Little Dorrit book cover image

Rigaud escapes from his prison cell with Italian inmate, John Cavaletto. He takes the name Rainier and commits another murder, a barmaid. He makes the acquaintance of Flintwinch who has decided to disobey his mistress, Mrs. Clennam, and obtains the copies of documents stating the truth about the events of the past. Flintwich has lied to his mistress about destroying the documents but her old maid, Affrey, hears it all and when he discovers her spying, she is threatened. Meanwhile Cavaletto escapes the company of Rigaud and finds a residence at the home of a kind-hearted family who is always being squeezed for rent by Mr. Pancks but we discover someone completely different is the true manipulator.

Arthur employs Mr. Pancks as an investigator and finds that Mr. Dorrit is heir to a fortune. So the Dorrits resume a life of cultivation but ashamed of his past, Mr. Dorrit cuts his connections to the prison and wishes his children also do so. This includes the Chiveries, Arthur Clennam and Maggie, a dimwitted woman-child who likes to eat a lot. Used to being a caring, motherly person, Amy finds the adjustment to a life of leisure difficult unlike the others and keeps communicating with Arthur in secret as she knows he has done a great deal on behalf of her family. She also makes an acquaintance with the Gowans as she realises who Mrs. Gowan could have been. In any case, she’s in love with him while he is getting over Mr. Gowan getting married to the girl he loved. She is rebuked by her father constantly causing her much unhappiness as she used to be his favourite child, mostly due to the influence of Mrs. General, the formal etiquette trainer. Frederick, her father’s musician brother is regarded in the same manner as Amy due to their uncultivated mannerisms. Fanny, on the other hand, thrives and makes a union with the fool Edward Sparkler, a fool she can rule over with her iron thumb much to the irritation of her mother-in-law, Mrs. Merdle, who had scorned her when she was poor. Meanwhile Mr. Dorrit makes a trip to England to invest his capital in the bank belonging to Mr. Merdle and Mr. Clennam who has since become a partner with Mr. Doyce, an engineer who is having trouble finding investors as he is a foreigner, decides to put the company capital into the bank to gain interest on the advice given by Mr. Meagles and Mr. Pancks while Doyce goes off to Russia to develop his inventions. Mr. Dorrit returns to Italy (after giving a not so cordial reception to John Chivery who had the audacity to visit him even after his proposal had been rejected by Amy when she was poor) but his trip to England has unbalanced his mind and after returning to Italy, he embarrasses himself in public and finds peace in death. So does his brother, Frederick.

When Mr. Merdle commits suicide after borrowing a penknife from Fanny, it turns out that the bank was conducting major fraud by embezzling and shuffling the funds of different depositors. The tables turn for Fanny’s mother-in-law as she finds herself at the mercy of her daughter-in-law. Meanwhile Little Dorrit finds peace again in her poverty because she can start taking care of others again. She finds Arthur Clennam at the debtor’s prison and the roles are reversed when Rigaud entrusts her with the truth. Arthur’s mother makes a miraculous recovery to get up from her wheelchair and after telling the truth to Little Dorrit herself asks for forgiveness which she does and dies. Meanwhile the House of Clennam tumbles down taking Rigaud to his maker but Flintwich and Affrey escape. Amy explains the mystery to Arthur and when she explains that she has no fortune any more like him, the insensible fellow is happy to accept her love. But then Doyce returns bearing no ill will and best of all, good news.

Meanwhile Pancks has his revenge on the man who posed as a figure of benevolence while being crafty in secret, the father of Arthur Clennam’s childhood sweetheart, Flora. The Meagles family tell Henry Gowan’s mother what they really think of her son and Tattycoram returns with the documents that were in the possession of Miss Wade after discovering them. So we have a happy ending for ‘Little Doormat’, sorry I meant Little Dorrit.

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The Devil’s Foot

07/18/2011 at 1:15 AM (Books, Mystery, TV) (, , , , , )

While Holmes and Dr. Watson are on vacation in Cornwall , the intrusion of a local vicar, Mr. Roundhay, makes sure that their break is cut short. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, a local gentleman estranged from the rest of his family due to a family dispute, found his brothers under a strange derangement and his sister, Brenda, dead after a friendly visit. The housekeeper had found them and on seeing their state had fainted. Tregennis says he saw his brother looking out through the window and adds he had seen “movement” outside. He then attributes the bizarre event as the work of the devil. The ghastly look of horror on Brenda’s face is a complete mystery. The summoned doctor came to the conclusion she had been dead for six hours and he too collapsed into a chair after arrival.

After attending the affected residence, Holmes kicks over a watering pot; the action is in fact a deliberate accident. The feet of all get soaked. Holmes notes the remains of a fire. Tregennis explains it was a cold, damp night. New questions arise when Dr. Leon Sterndale, a famous hunter and explorer, makes a visit after hearing of the tragedy. He is played by Denis Quilley, who has an amazing voice. The Tregennis family members are distant cousins of Dr.Sterndale.

Soon after, the vicar delivers the news of the death of Mortimer Tregennis; it was in the same manner as his siblings. Rushing to the room of the dead man, Holmes and Watson find the air smells foul and stuffy despite an open window. In addition, a lamp is burning. Holmes scrapes half of the ash from the lamp, leaving the rest for the local police. It is clear he knows how the victims met their deaths. He tests his hypothesis and is pulled into a stupor of madness. In my opinion, this was done rather cheesily. The quick thinking of Watson who resists inhaling the poison saves him from near peril. It turns out burning of the powder was the key to solve other complications.

It turns out there were two guilty parties in this tale: one was motivated by greed and the other by love. The poison is called Radix pedix diaboli – Devil’s Foot in Latin. This is how the adventure, found in the story collection His Last Bow, derives its name.

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The Crooked Man

07/17/2011 at 1:20 AM (Books, TV) (, , , , , )

Continuing my Sherlock Holmes theme, the story I give you today is that of The Crooked Man. In this version, the role of Watson is played by David Burke. Colonel James Barclay is shot dead and it is perceived the shooter is his loving wife, Nancy. Perplexing is that Nancy was discovered in a dead faint near her dead husband while he had a look of seeing a ghost on his face. It seems like an unlikely reaction to his wife. A singular wooden club was left behind which was assumed to be the murder weapon by the police. The maid reports she had heard the name David.

After going to an errand connected with her church, Nancy returned agitated and asked her maid to prepare her tea. Learning his wife was back, he joined her. That was the last the servants saw of the couple. When the coachman discovered the body, he found that the room key was nowhere to be found and which was reported to Holmes by the housekeeper. Sherlock Holmes jumps to the conclusion that it must be in possession of an intruder, a third-party.

It turns out Colonel James Barclay was harbouring a guilty conscience. He realised that his prior secret of how he rose up the ranks could be exposed due to the return of a former lover of his wife, Henry Wood, that he had wilfully betrayed. The man had been caught by the enemy and mistreated and tortured but Nancy had recognised him despite his bent back, scarred face and shuffling gait. He had informed her of her husband’s terrible conduct in the matter. It turns out no murder was involved and it is verified by experts.

David was a reference to the Book of Samuel in the Bible. She was reproaching her husband in reference to the section where David sent Uriah to a zone of heavy fighting to be free to marry his wife.

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The Copper Beeches

07/16/2011 at 1:47 AM (Adventure, Books, Mystery, Short Stories, TV) (, , , , , )

When I was a little girl of about eight, I found a set of abridged books that had once belonged to my mother when she was a child. They included Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, a set of three macabre tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and my favourite, a set of three Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This book included these following stories: The Red-Headed League, The Speckled Band and The Copper Beeches.

This post is about The Adventure of the Copper Beeches – namely the television version. It belongs to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes story collection. We are introduced to Holmes while he is having an ardent discussion with Watson regarding the chronicling of his cases. Then afterwards he produces a letter in which a red-haired young lady, Violet Hunter, asks him advice on whether she should accept a position as a governess in the Rucastle household in the countryside. She is offered an overly generous salary, only one six-year-old male child is under her charge and the offer of pay is increased when she rejects the offer after learning that cutting her tresses is a necessary condition of her employment. After some deliberation, she thinks her rejection is hasty and accepts the position when Mr. Rucastle writes to her. But she does consult Sherlock Holmes before she leaves and he warns her to take care and to send him a telegram if she would need his assistance.

Violet finds the situation she is in very odd. The estate is very large and she is told that there is a mastiff that is only fed every two days to keep him perpetually hungry if intruders break in to the premises. Her discovery of a set of tresses similar of colour to that she cut off from her own head puzzles her. The two servants, Mr. and Mrs. Toller seem like an unsavoury pair. She is sometimes told to wear an electric blue dress (electric blue came into vogue in 1890 – two years before the publication of the story in Strand magazine) and with her back to the window, she is told a series of funny stories by Mr. Rucastle which makes her laugh. Mrs. Rucastle sits in on these sessions but does not ever laugh and when Violet sneaks a glance in a mirror hidden in her handkerchief, she notices a bearded man behind the bars of the gates. She is most frightened when she wanders into the mystery wing with the shuttered turret and then Mr. Rucastle discovers her intrusion as she wanders out. He first makes a pretense of soothing her fears but when he threatens her with the dog, she decides its high time Holmes became involved in the affair.

Holmes and Watson arrive at the Rucastle estate when the master and mistress are away. They decide to break into the tower but finds the room empty but obviously someone had been kept shut up there. Mr. Rucastle returns and with the thought the trio had helped his daughter to escape with her lover goes to release the mastiff. Unfortunately he is mauled by the dog as it turns on him because Mr. Toller had not fed the hound for two days. Watson shoots the dog with his revolver. It turns out Miss Hunter had been hired for the express purpose of impersonation due to a matter of inheritance.

Mr. Rucastle (played by Joss Ackland) comes across as a bit of a creep from the start owing to his tone of voice. I think the sinister veneer this bestowed on him made it rather obvious he was the villain of the piece but you rather expect him to be more dastardly in his actions. Violet Hunter (played by Natasha Richardson) is incredibly beautiful and was a wonderful actress until her life was tragically cut short. The fact the TV version is highly faithful to the original is a credit to its producers as you feel it would have met with distinct appreciation by its original author.

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The Priory School

07/15/2011 at 1:11 AM (Adventure, Books, Mystery, TV) (, , , , , )

The Sherlock Holmes series in which Jeremy Brett plays Sherlock is quite addictive. It is a little more sombre in character than Poirot or Marple – the latter two have touches of modern influence in the set lighting. The story I will focus on today is called The Adventure of the Priory School. Part of this story is said to pay tribute to this Greek myth.

 The ten-year-old Lord Saltire, son of the Duke of Holdernesse, is kidnapped from his preparatory school. Not only the boy missing because it seems the school’s German teacher, Master Heidigger and his bicycle have also gone. The principal, Thorneycroft Huxtable, employs the services of Sherlock Holmes. The Duke is offering a princely sum to those who can inform him about the whereabouts of his missing son and the kidnappers involved. Holmes accompanies the principal and investigates the school and the residence of the Duke. He finds out the boy used to cry at night and disappeared on a day that he received a letter. James Wilder, the personal secretary of the Duke lets slip the information that the Duke is divorced from the boy’s mother who lives in Italy. But the Duke insists that his ex-wife is not involved, no ransom note comes forward and the Duke’s letter to his son which was posted by James Wilder has been taken so nobody can find out its contents.

Holmes and Watson scour the moor for clues and stumble upon some bicycle tracks. It turns out the tyres don’t match with Heidigger’s bike. Eventually the body of the poor German master is discovered with his head smashed in. There are only cow hoofprints near the scene but it seems to Holmes that the cow had walked, cantered and galloped – highly improbable behaviour for such a placid animal. After Watson expresses a desire to dine after the walk in the desolate moors, they find an establishment with a man who has a scar imprint upon his cheek. The food is terrible . In the stable, there is a horse and Holmes examines its hooves – it has been recently adorned with new nails on its old horseshoes. Watson tells Holmes that he has an instinctive feeling the gruff man, who uses the name of Hayes, knows all about the missing boy.

When a cyclist arrives from the direction of the Duke’s residence, Holmes and Watson hide and observe it is James Wilder. After Holmes examines the bicycle tyres, he knows he has found his culprit. The episode culminates in a chase scene where James Wilder takes the boy as his hostage into an underground cavern while Holmes follows closely behind. Unfortunately, things take an unexpected turn for both the villain and the detective but the Duke is reunited with his missing son. It turns out James was jealous of the boy because he was an illegitimate son and wanted manoeuvring power to force the Duke to change his current will. This ending is not similar to that of the book although three-fourths of the storyline subscribes to the original plot.

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