Marple is my rainy day go-to. I’m a huge fan of cosy mysteries (Cadfael, Agatha Raisin, The Thursday Murder Club) – of brain-teasing fun without the gratuitous guts, gore and goosebumps of serious crime series. And, as a Brit abroad I’m immensely drawn to idealised TV adaptions of home – especially when the bucolic setting reminds me of my Costwolds upbringing.
Marple delivers on both counts: gorgeous countryside (the series is set in the past, villages unmarred by Aldis and Amazons) and a comfortable body count. You can almost smell the roses and lavender as corpses crop up in grand mansions, homely parlours and cottage gardens.
Fortunately, dear Miss Marple is on hand, razor-sharp of mind undimmed by age. Knitting her way from one mystery to the next, dispensing wisdom born of a keen insight into human nature, she solves deaths that baffle Scotland Yard: the murder in the vicarage, the body in the library, and even a strangling glimpsed through the window of the 4.50 train from Paddington!
More than one adaption of the books has aired: between 1984 and 1992, the BBC dramatised all 12 of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels with Joan Hickson in the title role. But the more recent ITV version, simply entitled Marple is probably better known: six series in total (all except the last consisting of three full-length film type episodes), this show stars Geraldine McEwan for the first three series, and Julia McKenzie from the fourth series onwards.
Marple is more loosely based on the books than the BBC version: the titular character pops up in plots adapted from other Christie novels. But it’s nevertheless excellently done: genteel ladies and bowler-hatted men quietly murdering their nearest and dearest while maintaining that stiff upper lip.
In essence, it’s a perfect escapism for anyone with a penchant for the peaceful, pastoral English past. In fact, even in the height of a Cyprus summer, I’ve been known to crank up the air conditioning (electricity bill be hanged!) and settle down with a mug of Lady Grey to enjoy a Marple.
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