Miss Marple concluded last Sunday on Masterpiece Mystery with the final episode, The Blue Geranium, a twisted tale infused with the seven deadly sins, those tempting vices that have plagued man since the beginning of time. I can think of no better foundation for an intriguing murder mystery than, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. They are the stock and trade of the genre. And like the super-sleuth that she is, Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) is the only one who can unravel the complicated mystery surrounding three deaths in the quaint village of Little Ambrose.
Based on a short story by Agatha Christie published in 1932, the mystery begins almost immediately with the death of heiress Mary Pritchard (Sharon Small) whose life up until her demise involved hypochondria and histrionics. Her husband George (Toby Stephens) does not take her concerns over medical ailments or the flowers in her bedroom wallpaper turning blue very seriously. She on the other hand is convinced that it symbolizes her impending death. Proving him wrong is not what anyone expected. Did she indeed die of shock, or are there people around her who would benefit from her death? In Miss Marple’s view it all seems very odd and the villagers escalating tensions equal a long list of suspects. Two more victims and a quick confession by George Pritchard closes the case for Detective Inspector Somerset (Kevin R. McNally) who hopes to ride on the glory of the case right back to London after being banished for bad behavior.
On the day of the court hearing all seems to be wrapped up neatly until Miss Marple watches her gardener mixing a cyanide solution to kill wasps and it suddenly becomes clear that she has made a mistake. George Pritchard is not the killer and she must stop the court hearing. Phoning Inspector Somerset she gets no farther than the court assistant and rushes to London in search of her friend Sir Henry Clithering (Donald Sinden) who she hopes to convince to use his influence to intercede in the case. As she tells him the story of the Blue Geranium Murder we are taken back in time through the events leading up to Mary Pritchard’s death, the family and villagers involved, and all the reasons why she got it all so terribly wrong the first time round. “It became so knotted that it was difficult to tell one thing for the other” until she sees the light when her gardener mixes the poison to kill the wasps. Mary was also poisoned. Is it the philandering husband full of pride, the jilted sister full of wrath, or another whose lust for money will drive their greed to commit murder?
On first viewing, this episode was rather flat for me. I could not identify or sympathize with any of the characters. Fortunately, this script really gave Julia McKenzie a chance to use her acting skills showing greater depth of emotion than I remember in past episodes. The rest of the cast gave fine performances, but their characters were so unappealing that I never warmed to any of them. Mary Pritchard was an odious, manipulating, gluttonous woman whose death no one seemed to grieve. Her family was not much better. Husband George was cheating on her, sister Philippa Pritchard (Claudie Blakley) was a bitter and spiteful, her brother-in-law Lewis Pritchard (Paul Rhys) was an alcoholic gambler, her doctor Jonathan Frayn (Patrick Baladi) was a revengeful thief, and even Miss Marple’s friend Reverend Milewater (who shall remain a mystery because this actor is shamefully not credited, anywhere) is downtrodden over his decaying church and unproductive life. Oh my. Add to that a gray winter setting and not so thrilling locations and I was nonplused. On second viewing the story grew on me as I caught more of the seven deadly sins subtext by screenwriter Stewart Harcourt who greatly expanded the original short story. With so much sin in such a small place there had to be one vice that I could identify with. It arrived in this beautiful vintage red roadster.
- Read my review of Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side
- Read my review of Miss Marple: The Secret of Chimney’s
- Visit the Masterpiece Mystery official website
- Next up David Suchet on the Orient Express, a Masterpiece Special on July 7th
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