Miss Marple: Murder is Easy on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – Recap & Review

Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple (2009)The second episode of the Miss Marple Mysteries aired on Sunday, July 12th on Masterpiece Mystery with Murder is Easy. The new Miss Marple Julia McKenzie continues to improve in her interpretation of Agatha Christie’s amateur detective who may look like a harmless and kindly elderly lady, but is as sharp as her knitting needles.

Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) meets a stranger on a train who claims “murder is easy.”  The doddering Miss Pinkerton (Sylvia Syms) is on her way to Scotland Yard to report two suspicious deaths in her village and shares some scattered facts with Miss Marple during their short journey. When Miss Marple reads in the paper of her accidental death in the train station on the same day as their meeting, she may be the only person who knows of Miss Pinkerton’s suspicion that the deaths are indeed murders. She travels to the village of Wychwood-under-Ashe to reveal what she knows and discover the truth. The villagers are distressed by the three recent deaths, but do not have a clue that there is a murderer amongst them. When three more deaths happen in quick succession, Miss Marple assists retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and local constable PC Terrence Reed (Russel Tovey) in uncovering a murderer with a dark secret that will shock and scandalize the community.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Julia McKenzie in Miss Marple - Murder in Easy (2009)

De rigueur in this stylishly produced series, the costumes, locations and acting were superb. The producers have the knack of selecting an outstanding supporting cast of the best veteran British actors available. One wonders out loud if doing a Miss Marple episode has become the UK equivalent of a guest appearance on the American television show from the 1970’s The Love Boat, but with much more class! I was particularly impressed with Benedict Cumberbatch as the young retired policeman Luke Fitzwilliam. Viewers will recognize him from several quality performances in To The Ends of The Earth (2005), Amazing Grace (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). His subtle and pensive characterization of Fitzwilliam had me wondering about the characters back story of his days in Mayang as a policeman, and why this handsome and stoic man was unattached. (subliminal Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy emerging) Anna Chancellor was perfectly cast as Lydia Horton, the ambitious Politian’s wife. Has she been typecast since her portrayal of snarky Caroline Bingley in the miniseries Pride and Prejudice in 1995? Who cares! She plays the snobby social climber so well that she can make a career out of it and never be boring. My favorite performance was by far by Jemma Redgrave (Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park 2007) as Jessie Humbleby the widow of one of the victims on the brink of a mental breakdown. When Miss Marple grimaces after drinking a greenish cocktail that she has politely accepted made by the hand of the babbling Mrs. Humbleby, one can only imagine what she has mistakenly put in it to cause such an uncharacteristic reaction by a woman who is known for not revealing anything!

Murder is Easy First Edition (1939)With six recent murders, and one linked to them from the past, this might be one of Agatha Christie’s most complicated plots. Adaptated from her 1939 novel, it was neatly condensed down by screen writer Stephen Churchett into a fast paced 90 minuets. I found myself intently concentrating on the action, trying not to miss the connecting sphere of the villagers, or any clues to the identity of the murderer. It did however, suffer from being lopt’d and cropt’d with some distinct plot and character changes readers of the novel will definitely notice, but will matter little to viewers who will be wrapped up in discovering whodunit. I am still waiting for Julia McKenzie’s interpretation of Miss Marple to outweigh my fondness for Geraldine McEwan and Joan Hickson’s previous Miss Marple’s. Given time, I hope she will succeed.

Up next in the Six by Agatha series on Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday, July 19th, They Do It With Mirrors.

The Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Blogosphere

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”
Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Austen around the blogosphere for the week of September 21st

‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ begins on October 1st here at Austenprose, so start reading Northanger Abbey and gearing up for another great Austen novel event. I have been investigating Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho which will be our second group read and happened upon this nice article about the author and her work on PopMatters by Deane Sole.

The Austen Shopaholic deal the week is 40% off on the book New Friend’s and Old Fancies by Sibil Briton at Sourcebooks on line shop. This novel is reputedly the first Austen sequel ever published, though I do not think that scholars will ever let us believe that it was the first, but it has been claimed thus by Sourcebooks. Use code AUSTENSOURCE 10 at check out to receive your discount, and enjoy!

Austenesque author Lori Smith announces the release of her book A Walk with Jane Austen in the UK with a stunning new cover. We think that the pink Wellies are quite appropriate! Congrats, Lori!

With the movie The Duchess opening in the US theaters this week, Lady Georgian Spencer continues to be a hot topic in entertainment news. She married William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, in 1774, and they resided at Chatsworth, a grand estate in Derbyshire. Musings on Pride and Prejudice blog writes about the Jane Austen connection and similarities in the Cavendish and Darcy families. You can also get three perspectives on the movie The Duchess at Jane Austen’s World.

Austen quote of the week from an interview of actress Amanda Lisman who is portraying Elizabeth Bennet in Tom Woods new stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Septmeber 20 – October 12. Read a review of a prevue on the production here.

In reading her, I realized how much Austen’s writing has influenced romantic comedy, the (mis-matched) couple overcoming obstacles after first impressions. I just think it’s so remarkable that such a young woman, so geographically isolated, had such insights into human nature. And was so witty…. And it still resonates, in specific situations and class structure, and in the humour. We were all pleased and surprised there was so much laughter in (first performances in) Banff: the humour of the characters, so many lines people love…. It’s a book that speaks to people’s hearts; it’s pretty iconic.

Austenesque book reviews for the week; The Jane Austen Book Club, Pride and Prejudice Board Game, Northanger Abbey, Me and Mr. Darcy, The Matters at Mansfield, Persuasion, Impusle & Initiative, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Mansfield Park Revisited, Seducing Mr. Darcy, The Watson’s and Emma Watson, Jane Austen: A Life, Oxford World’s Classics: Emma, and The Darcys and The Bingleys. Wow! Lots of Austen readin’ going on out there folks. Keep it up.

Actress Brenda Blethyn who portrayed Mrs. Bennet in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice is currently staring as faded southern belle Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee William’s classic play The Glass Menagerie at The Norwich Theatre Royal, September 22-27. Here is a great interview of actress Anna Chancellor who played Caroline Bingley in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, and presently appearing in the play Creditors at Covent Garden in London.

The Becoming Jane fan site has announced that The Jane Austen Centre on line magazine has added their biography of Madame LeFroy to their section on Jane Austen family biographies. Congrats ladies!

Author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell has delusions that she is the modern Jane Austen!?! Well, not quite, but this writer likes to sensationalize a bit to get our attention. Did it work?

Lost in Austen, the ITV mini-series pastiche of Pride and Prejudice on UK tellie continues to amaze us in a bus accident sort of way. The whiplash rubber necking abounds as the media and on line blogs are deconstructing episode 3 which aired this past week.  Jane Austen in Vermont blog has an interesting vantage from a British viewer, Jane Austen’s World has some fabulous screen caps and a review, AustenBlog readers continue to tell it like it is with their comments, of course I had to have my share of the conversation, and here is some eye candy for you all as Jane Austen Today displays the Hunks of Lost in Austen.

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England opened on September 19th and will continue through September 28th. On Saturday the 20th, Regency finerie was afoot as participants paraded about the city in the grand Promenade. Talented photographer Owen Benson contacted Austenprose to tell us he had uploaded many stunning shots of the event, including someone that you might recognize, Austen intern Virginia Claire Tharrington, who looks quite stunning in her mustard ribboned bonnet. Lucky girl to be there. Pea Green of course!

So where is Jane Austen’s true home? Chawton or Bath? The debate continues as the two cities duke it out over bragging rights in Literary Smackdowns: Jane Austen Territory on The L Magazine blog and Satisfaction Will Be Demanded at AustenBlog.

Unseen Austen an new radio play on BBC4 by Judith French imagines Pride and Prejudice through an impertinent and over the top Lydia Bennet and available by Podcast. Oh la! Go Lydia! Feeling sentimental? Then listen to a Podcast from CBC Radio from 1996 entitled Jane Mania, focusing on the wave of popularity spawned by the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. Sharon Farrell interviews novelist and film adaptor Fay Weldon (P&P 1979), Oxford scholar Marilyn Butler and Austen biographer Claire Tomalin. What an incredible group a well informed and witty women, talking about our favorite subject. Personally, I can never get enough of that!

The third annual R.I.P. reading challenge is underway until October 31st. This reading event is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and has a horror and Gothic theme. I have taken up the challenge and will be reading three ‘perils’ written or influenced by Jane Austen; Northanger Abbey, Pemberley Shades and The Mysteries of Udolpho. You can also join in this reading challenge since Austenprose’s two group reads during ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ in October will qualify you for R.I.P. III. So, go Gothic with us in October y’all, cuz ya won’t regret it.

Until next week, happy reading!

Laurel Ann