A wise man once said that 'nobody can write an Agatha Christie story but the authoress herself'; in her day, Agatha Christie was considered the ultimate mistress of suspense.
Where most authors of whodunits use peripheral characters to move the plot forward, Agatha did not. All her characters have vibrant life breathed into them. When you are reading one of her stories, more often than not, the characters leap off the page. The reader is lured into what seems like an idyllic world, filled with county fairs, stately homes and thatched-roof cottages, but as the story progresses the reader discovers that Agatha's world is filled with hidden grudges, timeless mysteries, secret affairs and the occasional bumbling police detective.
Miss Marple is one of Christie's legendary detectives; she combines a gentle nature with an unrelenting shrewdness and a no-nonsense attitude. And above all, her empathy for the victim is profound, as it is with all Agatha's detectives. With a combination of all these elements, Christie's chilling tales translate well to the big or small screen and this box set is no exception.
Julia Mackenzie reprises her role as Miss Marple. Unlike her predecessor Geraldine McEwan, who had a bit of a mischievous streak and a twinkle in her eye, Mackenzie plays it straight, which will please Christie purists.
In Blue Geranium, Miss Marple makes a mistake, heaven forbid, and she races against time to correct her error as the person she originally accused of murder is about to be sent to the gallows. This teleplay was adapted from a short story by Agatha, first published in the 1930s. It may represent the future for Agatha Christie adaptations, as many of her short stories have not been picked up by Hollywood or British TV. This story has a freshness to it and as it was not originally a full-length novel the teleplay writer has been given a chance to really step up the pace and flow; it is wonderfully told in a style that perhaps would not make Agatha turn in her grave.
The Secret of Chimneys is the most messed around with of all the stories. Secret passageways have been added, subplots about diamonds have been altered and, goodness gracious, even the identity of the murderer has been changed. Putting all that aside, however, it features the ultra-posh James Fox and I could listen to his dulcet tones all day. So, I still enjoyed it!
The last tale is the most famous of all the stories. It is another adaptation of The Mirror Crack'd. Unfortunately, when tackling a story that has previously received the Hollywood treatment and starred such legends as Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Kim Novak, it's hard not to compare the British version to that original outing. In a straight comparison, most fall short. Only Victoria Smurfitt stands out because instead of playing the love-sick Ella Blunt straight, as Geraldine Chaplin did, she completely hams it up. Only the best actors can get away with this, and she does so with gusto. This retelling actually owes a lot to the big-budget Hollywood adaptation. So, the legends have been paid their due, and you shouldn't get annoyed with the writers because Agatha, the Queen of Crime, herself pinched the plot from a true life story involving actress Gene Tierney.
All in all, if you are an Agatha Christie nut and get really upset if the slightest detail is changed, it may be best not to watch as that vein on the side of your forehead may pop out several times. However, if you are slightly more chilled and, like me, love the idea of grand old English houses filled with occupants who appear on the surface to be a happy, if slightly uptight bunch, but turn out to have dark secrets and a propensity to knock each other off, then this is the box set for you. So, do yourself a favour and wait for a stormy night, settle down beside the fire, pour yourself a cup of cocoa and enjoy...