Death Becomes Her

By Day, Gary | Times Higher Education, February 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Death Becomes Her


Day, Gary, Times Higher Education


Adela Bradley, a glamorous, more saucy version of Miss Marple, is brought vividly to life, says Gary Day.

A woman should always be careful about losing her head over a man. It could end up in a saucepan simmering nicely at gas mark 3. This was the rather grisly fate of Mrs Cockerton (Janine Duvitski) who, having failed to impress Mr Forrester (Nicholas Woodeson) with her Madeira cake, resorted to more underhand means of gaining his heart: blackmail.

Being a member of Little Fordham parish council does not mean that a respectable citizen can't behave like a Frenchman when the need arises. Mr Forrester had already proved himself every bit as capable of committing a crime passionnel as his Gallic counterpart, and killing is easier the second, or was it the third, time around. It was getting to the point where you couldn't pop to the post-box without tripping over bodies.

All of which confirmed Adela Bradley's (Diana Rigg) observation to the viewer that murder was simply a means of relieving the boredom of village life (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries: The Rising of the Moon, BBC Four, Wednesday 15 February, 9pm). She herself kept ennui at arm's length by a frequent change of hats. The millinery was not just for decoration, it helped her think. The red beret in particular seemed to enhance her powers of detection, alerting her to several red herrings, as well as blending in nicely with the bright costumes of the circus folk.

That's where it all started. The roll of drums, the crack of the whip, the gasp of the crowd as the blindfolded knife thrower propelled his blades at his assistant who was strapped to a board, leaving them quivering in the wood, millimetres from her skin. It was therefore cruelly ironic that the exotically named Celestine Venus (Sheila Steafel) should be stabbed to death moments later. Her fellow performers mysteriously had no interest in finding the culprit, which made things rather tricky for Inspector Christmas (Peter Davison).

If they wouldn't talk to him, then they would talk to Mrs Bradley. "Facts are my forte," he said. "The psychology of the criminal mind is yours." He phoned as she was explaining the merits of jazz to George (Neil Dudgeon), her chauffeur. "It's innovative." "Oh, is it?" said George. As it turned out, the inspector had about as much appreciation of the facts as George had of jazz. But with a name like Christmas, this was not unduly surprising. More so was Mrs Bradley's desire to have George targeted by Castries (Francis Magee), the knife thrower. …

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