Inspector Lewis: Falling Darkness on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Inspector Lewis Falling Darkness © 2010 MASTERPIECE

Falling Darkness, the final episode of Series III of Inspector Lewis aired tonight on Masterpiece Mystery concluding with a powerful story of personal connections to cast regular Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman). There is a theme of dark family secrets haunting many of the characters, motivating some to the ultimate revenge – murder. Rupert Graves (a Room with a View & Sherlock) guest stars as Laura’s former college housemate Alec Pickman whose randy and dissipated past might be a prime motive for murder.

It is All-Hallows-Eve in Oxford and the fog adds an eerie atmosphere to a festive night filled with costumes, jack-o-lanterns and a bizarre death. Police pathologist Dr. Laura Hobson is on her way to a reunion dinner with two of her former college housemates when she is called to a murder scene and stunned to discover that the victim, Ligeia Willard (Louise Hunt), is the same friend she was planning to meet. The coincidence is even more twisted when DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whatley) and DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) are informed that the victim was not only struck on the head, but had a wooden stake driven through her heart and garlic stuffed in her mouth. “Is this the work of some kind of lunatic?” CS Innocent jests to Lewis, who in turn jokes, “Vampires mum?”

Lewis and Hathaway begin the investigation into Dr. Willard’s past life to find clues to the murder. She is a scientist at a stem cell research institute which has come under strong criticism and threats by the “devout to the doolally” picketing daily outside the office building. Also on the list of suspects are her two fellow colleagues, Professor Rufus Strickfaden (John Sessions) and Dr. Nicolae Belisarius (Adam Levy). Strickfaden is the defensive head of the institute who when questioned about his work and the protestors by Lewis retorts that “Science is about the pursuit of truth. That always frightens someone.” Dr. Belisarius is even testier. He is visibly angered by Ligeia’s death and blames it on the police who obviously did not do enough to protect them from the death threats.

Meanwhile four Oxford students who share a house are being haunted by their own mystery. Someone, or something, keeps leaving cryptic messages on their refrigerator spelling out “Murder. Help me.” and names they do not recognize. Fellow housemates Madeleine Escher (Lucy Griffiths) and Roddy Allen (Brodie Ross), are not concerned but Rowena Trevanion (Lauren O’Neil) is so shaken that fourth housemate Victor Clerval (Alex Price) hires a local medium/mystic Ursula Van Tessell (Lynsey Baxter) to de-ghost their house. Van Tessell arrives and discovers that “something terrible happened a long time ago” in Rowena’s room, then ceremoniously releases the trapped spirit. Rowena is not convinced and chooses to sleeps in the sitting room.

Having withdrawn from the investigation because of her personal connection, Laura and her friend and former roommate Ellen Jacoby (Niamh Cusak) grieve for Ligeia by reminiscing over old college photos and wondering where the two male housemates Pete and Alec are now. When Laura is called to her next case, she arrives at the address in disbelief. It is the same house she shared twenty years ago with Ligeia, Ellen, Peter and Alec. A current resident Rowena lies murdered on the floor of the sitting room and more cryptic messages are written on the refrigerator, with the words Ligeia Willard, Laura Hobson, murder and find Mary Gwilliam spelled out. With this new connection Laura is now a prime suspect in both cases. Lewis cannot believe that his friend is personally involved but continues to look into her past and her four fellow housemates. When a third homicide victim is found brutally tortured and the clues lead to a private hospital that specialized in adoptions, Lewis and Hathaway are shocked to find incriminating evidence against Laura in the hospitals records. Has she lied to them about her past, and, is she a killer?

Falling Darkness is a shadowy episode fueled by many family secrets from the past. Screenwriter Russell Lewis, who also wrote this season’s excellent episode The Dead of Winter, used great details and coincidence’s to connect all of the storylines. He loves the play of words and literary allusions and I could not help but laugh at his choice of Nethermore as the street of Laura’s college house, the use of Ligeia and Rowena, two famous ladies from a short story by Edgar Allan Poe  where one dies and is resurrected in the other, and Pickman with its H.P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model connections to Poe. I am sure there are more allusions through names and places. He just loves to inspire our Goggling addiction.

One of the most interesting characters was Laura’s fellow housemate Alec Pickman played by Rupert Graves. Actors say that colorful characters are the most challenging and enjoyable to portray, and Graves certainly had fun with Pickman who Laura described as a “mad, bad and lock up your daughters” personality, spouting poetry while swilling gin. Graves was so convincing as a dissipated drunk that knowing his past bad boy reputation, I wondered what was real and what was craft. Hathaway of course pegged him perfectly. “You are a bit of a fraud Mr. Pickman. A rare bag of bits of poetry and old songs.” He was of course referring to his quoting bits lifted and remixed from Tennyson’s poem In Memorium. “the heart is an unquiet house” and quoting directly from the song Wand’ring Minstrel from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado.

A wand’ring minstrel I,

a thing of shreds and patches,

Of ballads, songs, and snatches,

And dreamy lullaby.

It was great to see an entire storyline devoted to Laura Hobson, who is usually relegated to only the crime scene and police lab. The developing relationship between Lewis and Hobson is interesting, but I wonder how long the writers can keep them in the attraction phase? Once they become a full blow romance, the suspense will be quelled and our interest as well. This has been a great season of Inspector Lewis and I look forward to more Lewis and Hathaway snarky banter and Oxford’s beautiful backdrop in next year’s episodes. I will close by leaving you with a classic Hathaway cynical line to Lewis as the other police pathologist on the force standing in for Dr. Hobson leaves the crime scene.

JH: What he lacks in bedside manner he more than makes up in basic incivility.”

You can watch Falling Darkness online on the new PBS video web site from September 27th through October 26th, 2010.

Image courtesy © 2010 MASTERPIECE

32 thoughts on “Inspector Lewis: Falling Darkness on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

  1. Pingback: Masterpiece Mystery PBS 2010 Season Preview « Austenprose

  2. I am looking for a more complete summary of the plot. I have a hard time understanding the dialog–the brits’ accents are a bit much for me. I don’t understand why Rowena was killed and why the murderers were leaving messages on the refrigerator. Nor do I fully understand the first murder since the hospital records reflect Hobson, not Ligeia. But since they killed Ligeia first, that suggests that they knew she was their mother and, if so, why the other murders? And what were they trying to get the nurse to tell them and what she did she tell them? And I totally missed what the roommate who showed up at 2 a.m. was doing–in bed with the psychic maybe? Was the brother as mad as the sister–did he think he was more than a brother–the kiss on the lips certainly suggested more than a platonic relationship. All and all, I am very dissatisfied with this show but I can’t tell if it’s a function of my inability to translate the accents or if the plot was not well written (in my view, murder mysteries need to be tidied up at the end with no loose ends). Any help you can give would be appreciated.

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    • Hi Bob, thanks for visiting. I will try to answer your questions, but some of it is sketchy for me too.

      SPOILERS

      The murderers know the are brother and sister from the genetic tests and one assumes their birth certs. Their motive in killing Ligeia was to torment Laura and make her look like the killer. They wanted to make her suffer before they killed her.

      The messages on the refrigerator were further attempts to incriminate her and link her to Rowena’s murder in the house where she formerly lived. The murderers continue to give clues on the frig to tie her to the crimes. The name Mary Gwilliams comes out of left field but takes the investigation down the path to find out who she is and how she is connected. They are leading the detectives by planting clues to the hospital it find Laura’s name as their birth mother. They most likely tortured Mary Gwilliams to get information on their adoption.

      Victor and his dalliance with the medium was a red herring. He had stood Rowena up on Halloween and was feeling guilty, one thing lead to another with the medium. He felt responsible for her death because he was not at home? Not sure why he was so upset over cheating on her. Guilt?

      The brother & sister murderers were married and tried unsuccessfully to have children. That is when they had tests and found out they were related and she had the genetic sleep disease. Their vengeance for their mother bringing them into the world was to kill her.

      The British accents can be a challenge. Try turning on the subtitles if you have a CD or watching the hearing impaired airing that PBS usually offers. This was a tough episode to understand and took me a few times of re-watching until it all sunk in. Hope this helps.

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      • thanks. I like Inspector Lewis but this episode did not seem to be well thought out and was a bit contrived in my opinion.

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  3. THANK YOU for answering Bob’s questions. I evidently wasn’t paying close enough attention because I was very confused and needed help.

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  4. I thought it was nice to see that Laura and Inspector Lewis relationship has gone to a new level. Perhaps beyond friendship, as they seem to be coming together slowly this season. I like that they are not rushing it, and just gives you enough to smile and think yes, this is nice to see. I know the show isn’t about romance, but it is nice to see a tiny bit sneak in. I really enjoyed this episode, and it had me questioning Laura, luckily Inspector Lewis was never swayed. Is there going to be any more episodes this season?

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  5. I thought the mystery was very well done. Until the ending, I had no idea who the murders were, and the motives for the murders seemed believable. This undoubtably has been the best season of Inspector Lewis so far.

    The character in this episode that I found to be most intriguing was the psychic, Ursula Van Tessell. Is she a fake or not? She tells Lewis that Ligeia had been stabbed in the heart, and he had lost someone (Lewis’s wife). These could just be educated guesses. Then she says that there is great pain in Rowena’s bedroom from a man who has anguish. It would be very hard for her to know that room had been Peter’s.

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    • Hi David – I think that the writer left Ursula Van Tessell at loose ends with he viewer on purpose. She most likely researched Lewis’ wife’s death, but I am not certain when they first met that the cause of Ligeia’s death was made public. How did she know she had been stabbed in the heart? So, yes that could have been real. She also did not know that Rowena’s bedroom had also been Ligeia’s and where Lewis speculate she was raped by Peter. His sister said he was very troubled by something when he came home from college and then later killed himself. One assumes it was his spirit that Van Tessell sensed and released. All speculative mind you, so take it as you like.

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  6. I appreciate this detailed analysis from a fellow Lewis and Austen lover!

    I’d like to know what Lewis says to Dr. Hobson, in the very end, before they go walking off together.

    My American ears cannot quite pick it up, between the accent and perhaps the slang, and our versions have no subtitles available.

    Had the impression that he was inviting her for coffee or a drink, though I know he agreed to meet Hathaway later at The Trout.

    Thanks!

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    • Hi Sally K., I turned on my subtitles to be certain of the dialogue. Honestly, you were once step ahead of me because I did not understand Hathaway when he said the Trout. (the pub)

      Here is the transcription:

      Laura walks up to Lewis

      LH: Robbie. Thank you. If you hadn’t…
      RL: We did. And we always will. Blow the cobwebs?

      they turn and walk away together.

      I had to look up what blow the cobwebs means. here is the Cambridge dictionary definition:

      blow the cobwebs away
      UK
      to get rid of feelings of tiredness, usually with fresh air or exercise
      We went for a five-mile jog to blow the cobwebs away.

      Hope that helps.

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      • Thanks for that! I think the phrase is key.

        “Blow the cobwebs,” as in get a new start. Both Hobson and Lewis could stand a bit of that, at this point in their lives.

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  7. I had to watch this episode three times before finally getting it. The story is more complexed than the previous ones and, in my opinion, had some unrelated clues.

    The story revolves around five flatmates; one in particular, the now forensic pathologist Dr. Laura Hobson.

    The story begins with Laura getting ready to meet up with Ligeia and Ellen. Apparently, the three women get together each time Ellen is in town. But, before the appointed meeting, Laura received a call to go to a crime scene. When she arrived, she immediately collapsed when she saw who the victim was – it was Ligeia.

    Later, Laura was called in again to another crime scene. Inspector Lewis and Sargeant Hathaway were waiting for her. To her horror and disbelief, it was the house that she and her flatmates used to live in. A young woman, Rowena, was murdered – in the same room that Ligeia occupied when she lived in the house! It is not clear why she was murdered, although, in my opinion, it was to bring Dr. Hobson to the house where she used to live. There were cryptic messages on the refrigerator. When Inspector Lewis and Sargeant Hathaway put them together, it clearly says “find Mary Gwilliams.” Laura didn’t know who Mary Gwilliams was. She is now more confused than ever as to why this is happening to her.

    Sargeant Hathaway told Inspector Lewis that before Rowena was murdered, Victor, who was apparently dating Rowena, called in a medium, Ursula Von Tossel. (Rowena felt that there was a ghost in the house and she wanted it to go away.) Victor met Miss Von Tossel at a seance/book signing party, went to a bar and had a one-night stand. This is the reason why Victor feels guilty about Rowena’s death. He feels that if he was there for Rowena, then she wouldn’t be murdered.

    At the house, Miss Von Tossel felt that something terrible happened in Rowena’s room years ago, and a young man was in anguish for something that he did many years ago, and that is why his spirit remains in the room.

    During the investigation, Laura told Inspector Lewis that aside from herself, Ligeia and Ellen, there were also two boys who shared the flat with them – Alec and Peter. Laura knows that Alec is around, but has no clue as to Peter’s whereabouts. Laura also told Inspector Lewis that Alec was the type of “mad, bad, and lock your daughters” sort of fellow, and that Alec and Ligeia became lovers, but he dumped Ligeia for another. It was only after two years when Laura found out that it was Ellen. Now, this revelation is critical because Ligeia thought all along that it was Laura who replaced her in Alec’s affection since Ellen kept her affair with Alec from her flatmates. Ligeia was devastated when Alec left her. Peter offered his shoulders to cry on but could not stand this closeness; he raped Ligeia and she became pregnant.

    We must remember that Laura knew nothing of all these at the time – she didn’t know that Alec and Ellen became lovers after Alec dumped Ligeia; that Ligeia was raped by Peter; and most importantly, Laura didn’t know that Ligeia became pregnant.

    Continuing with the investigation, Inspector Lewis tracked down Alec – a complete drunk – living in a boathouse. He asked Alec for information about Peter. He says that the last he heard of him, Peter was living with his sister. Again, this is critical. When Inspector Lewis went to see Peter’s sister, he found out that Peter committed suicide. The sister thinks it’s because of “something terrible” that he did. Here, we also found out about the genetic disorder which is hereditary and for which there is no cure; that Peter and his sister who is also his twin are both afflicted with it.

    In the meantime, Sargeant Hathaway went on his own to look for Mary Gwillians. He found her dead in her house. Another forensic pathologist came to examine the body and deduced that she was tortured before killing her. Around her neck was a necklace with a round pendant. The pathologist thought it was St. Christopher or “something.” Sargeant Hathaway also found some papers showing that Mary Gwilliams was a retired nurse.

    Back in the office, while Sargeant Hathaway was looking at the pendant, he realized that it has the lettering saying St. Perth; and there was a hospital named after this saint; a hospital where Mary Gwilliams used to work. Inspector Lewis and Sargeant Hathaway went to the hospital (now abandoned) and found registry books with entries of two live births – a girl and a boy – and the mother listed was L. Hobson. They also found out that it was Mary Gwilliams who arranged for the adoption of the twin; but they were separated – the boy was given to one family and the girl to another.

    Almost twenty-four years later, a young couple Vince and Charlotte, was trying to have a baby, but the wife had three miscarriages within one year. They both took a genetic test and found out that they are brother and sister. They also found out that Charlotte inherited the sleep disorder – one of the symptoms is madness – as evidenced by her pretending that she is taking care of a baby when, in fact, it was a baby doll that she is taking care of. It appears that Vince is also exhibiting madness as he seems to be very concerned about their “baby” Harry.

    When their true identities were revealed to them, Vince and Charlotte started their investigation. They want revenge on the woman who brought them into this world. They found out about their adoption, the name of the mother listed as L. Hobson, and the nurse Mary Gwilliams who arranged the adoption.

    They found Mary Gwilliams and after torturing her, according to the pathologist, she was then killed. But, a few days before she was killed, she called Laura Hobson and told her that “they found your name in the phone book and if you are that Laura Hobson, you would know what it’s all about.” Laura, of course, had no idea what it was all about. When Inspector Lewis asked her why she did not return the call, she said she just assumed that the caller reached another Laura Hobson.

    Mary Gwilliams was killed first (she was involved in the adoption, she separated the twin, they met years later, got married not knowing they were brother and sister). The second one to be killed was Ligeia. It is not clear as to why she was killed, we can only assume that, as Laurel Ann says, to torture Laura. Then, they killed Rowena. This is particularly cruel because she has nothing to do with anything other than she lives in the house that Laura used to live in. Remember, Vince and Charlotte found out that she is the forensic pathologist in Oxford; therefore, they knew that she would be the one who will attend to the crime scene in that house. They also tried to kill Ellen when she went to visit Alec in his boathouse. Ellen survived the attack because Alec heard the commotion, came to her aid, and took her to the hospital. Again, it appears that this is also to torture Laura.

    The most important question of all: Why did Ligeia enter Laura’s name as the mother of her twin in the registry books? OUT OF REVENGE! LIGEIA THOUGHT THAT IT WAS LAURA WHO BECAME ALEC’S LOVER AFTER ALEC DUMPED HER.

    According to Inspector Lewis, all these things happened because of secrets and lies. Ellen lied and kept her affair with Alec a secret. Ligeia never told anybody that Peter raped her, became pregnant and delivered a twin.

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  8. Eveline – you are a superstar. That helped me a lot because I didn’t record this ep, and my phone kept ringing that night.

    But I still don’t get (or remember) how it was discovered that Ligeia was raped when she never told anyone? Are we just assuming that because Peter said he did a terrible thing?

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  9. Anonymous, this one I got right away the very first time I saw the episode. I wanted to make it clear on my mind, so when I watched it for the second time, I listened carefully to the dialogue between Inspector Lewis and the sister, as this seems to be the catalyst that proves as to what happened between Peter and Ligeia.

    The sister told Inspector Lewis that when he came back from school, he was a different – that there seems to be something heavy/awful that he was feeling. Her description of his sadness and loneliness was so palpable and so moving that we can almost feel it. (Remember, the incident happened very close to their graduation, and they all separated after the Finals’ Bash which, incidentally, Laura was not able to attend because she came down with mumps and her father had to pick her up. She was all ready out of the flat at that time.)

    Another clue that seems to re-enforce this was the feeling that Miss Von Tossel felt when she was called into the house because Rowena felt that there was a ghost and she wanted it to go away. When she entered Rowena’s room, (the same room that Ligeia occupied when she was living in the house) Miss Von Tossel felt that something terrible happened in that room long time ago, and that a young man’s spirit couldn’t let go – we can only assume it was Peter’s guilt in taking advantage of Ligeia’s trust when she came to him for comfort after Alec left her.

    In the very end, Inspector Lewis put all these information together and figured the whole thing out. It is also important to remember that he seems to have a genuine knack for coming up with the correct conclusion once all the information, fact or implied, are put before him. In one of the previous episodes, Sargeant Hathaway described him as “a bloody genius” – that even Chief Superintendent Innocent appears to agree.

    Also, if you were addicted to the Chief Inspector Morse series, as I was, there were many instances in which Sargeant Lewis was able to solve the mystery, even though he didn’t know it at the time.

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  10. My friends

    Thanks for thorough help in understanding intricacies of this episode.

    I do not feel so bad by seeing your own difficulties with the plot. My native language is Russian, but I am hopeless fan of Inspector Lewis, Morse, Foyle, and multiple others before them.

    Also I am fortunate to find here so many highly talented people communicating together. It was real pleasure to read everything you have written.

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    • Vladimir – you are most welcome. After watching the first season of Inspector Lewis and being lost half the time, I too needed help with the missed bits. I still do, but between other comments I can usually figure it out. The writers like to make us work. Glad we were helpful. Cheers, Laurel Ann

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  11. Off topic: Does anyone know the title/artist of the song that was playing when Alec was drawing on his barge? The lyrics are: “Even if I could tell you I wouldn’t say / Hey there, darling, take my blood and let me fly away / Keep my love but come back another day.” Strangely, a Google search finds nothing. Could it be an original song written for the episode?

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    • Hi Don

      I ??think?? it could be “Pain of Salvation” a swedish band. It really sounds like Daniel Gildenlöw’s voice but I don’t recognise the song.

      Best of luck.

      NaomiG :)

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    • Hey, I saw last night the episode, and I had the same question. Did you already find the song, am looking everywhere but I can’t find it. I think the song is very alike as heroin from the velvet underground.
      I really want to find it, very curious about it.

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      • Sorry, Zara, I didn’t. I checked out Pain of Salvation, as Naomi suggested, but couldn’t find the song. Not sure if that’s the band. Let me know if you find who the singer is.

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  12. Thanks, all, for an enlightening time. I had watched the show on tape, with subtitles partly due to Brit accents, but had then foolishly deleted the show, though I was still confused. Your discussion has kept me from a completely sleepless night—I’ve been tossing for a few hours, then decided to Google in an effort to ease my torture. Mission accomplished, thanks to this very genteel site.
    And I, too, have been mightily impressed with all the wonderful detectives in Mystery’s/Masterpiece Mystery’s series over the years.

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  13. Vladimir, welcome to the world of mystery discussion. I think we are all, as you say, hopeless fans of Masterpiece Mystery. Do you know that I will do anything and everything possible to re-arrange my schedule so as not to leave the house when the Mystery night is on? And, if I have to absolutely leave the house, I make sure that I return on time. I’ve been known to leave in the middle of a party to rush home, just in time to turn the TV on and settle down for a good night of watching.

    Of all the Inspector Lewis episodes so far, Falling Darkness seems to be the more complexed. But, it is also a very good one because the main characters – Inspector Lewis and Sergeant Hathaway, and the secondary characters Dr. Hobson and Chief Superintendent Innocent – all seem to be congealing, so to speak.

    We all love the Chief Inspector Morse series, and when it ended in the final episode – “The Remorseful Day” – it was a sad day for all the Mystery fans. When the news of the death of the incomparable John Thaw came, it was even sadder, if there is such a thing, because we all know that there will never be another episode, nor any special movies forever.

    I think we are all happy that we are given another “gift” in the form of the Inspector Lewis series. May it last for as long as its predecessor.

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    • Thanks for warm welcome.

      I am not much fan of TV in general. Actually there was no TV in my house for the last six years (only box for watching tapes and dvd’s). So it is easier for me not to be tied up to the house. I pick up most of my content on Internet by connecting up my netbook to TV.

      That certainly creates problems in finding some old series (like Onedine Line, for example), but so far I manage.

      The general problem in my life is too many good things to do with having only 24 hours for entertainment.

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  14. Hi! I just wanted to write and say thanks for the recap! I just finished watching this episode online and my mind was blown, but I still had questions. I’m new to Inspector Lewis, it’s just this summer that I started watching and I’m now looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

    And I will admit that I’ve never been able to get into Austen, but hopefully I will find some inspiration around these parts!

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    • Thanks for visiting Ashley. I am glad the recap was helpful. Inspector Lewis is a great series. Regarding Jane Austen, you might start by watching one of the movie adaptations or reading a sequel and working into one of the novels. I recommend the 1995 Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion movies. Enjoy, Laurel Ann

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  15. Thank you, thank you to both Laurel Ann and Eveline!!! My husband and I watched the dvr-ed episode last night and puzzled over our misunderstandings for well over an hour! Now all is revealed….bless you both!

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  16. Sheila Catherine, I know exactly how that feels.

    The “Falling Darkness” episode is a little bit more perplexing because there were so many unrelated clues. The viewers are left to imagine, or to fill in the blanks, so to speak, and put the things together.

    Aside from all that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Let us all hope that the Inspector Lewis series will be with us for a long time!

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  17. Eveline – you are a remarkable student of the series! Each time I watch a Lewis episode, I seem to get lost somehow and ths worries me that I’m losing my ability to follow plots etc. This one was particularly ‘layered’. Now with your explanations I can see the full plot and it falls into place. Laura is the innocent party all the way through and the murderers are closing in on her thinking that she did the unthinkable of adopting them out, abdicating parental responsibility and getting on with her life without further care. What is quite bizarre is the notion that the two twins could be reunited and fall in loe and blah blah…that’s too far fetched. One other loose end is around the psychic and her agent and the front page of the local rag – what happene there? And what was Victor thinking?! He had a hot young thang to play with and ends up scoring with a supernanny lookalike (even Oxford students know what’s good for them!).

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