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Dalgliesh: A Certain Justice

Murder at the Bar Delivers A Certain Justice on PBS's MYSTERY!

In the 1997 MYSTERY! presentation of Original Sin, P. D. James led Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) into the rarefied world of book publishing to find a killer in tweedy clothing. Now the bloodstains smear the hallowed halls of London's Middle Temple, the heart of the English legal system, and corrode the façade of respectability that hides a volatile arena of ambition, backstabbing, jealousy, revenge -- and murder.

A Certain Justice, a gripping, impeccably acted three-hour drama based on P. D. James' critically-acclaimed 1998 bestseller, marks actor Roy Marsden's tenth outing as James's no-nonsense, poetry-loving detective -- who now faces one of the most challenging, and ultimately frustrating, cases of his distinguished career.

Enter top-flight barrister Venetia Aldridge (Penny Downie; The Ice House), an ambitious and abrasive high-profile litigator renowned for her steely performance in court. She is now in the Old Bailey's Number One Court to defend the eerily detached Gary Ashe (Ricci Harnett), accused of brutally murdering his aunt, a prostitute, in their London home. Venetia is, as usual, brilliant in her defense and Ashe is exonerated.

On the heels of the verdict, however, Aldridge faces another trial -- of a much more personal nature: Her 18-year-old daughter Octavia (Flora Montgomery; Wuthering Heights), recently home from boarding school and admittedly neglected by Venetia, announces that she's fallen in love with Ashe. Venetia doesn't have an opportunity to dissuade her daughter from continuing the relationship, for she herself is the next victim: Venetia is found in her law-firm office stabbed to death with a letter opener that replicates the sword of justice; a barrister's wig -- a classic heirloom long in storage -- on her head; and covered in blood that is not her own.

Dalgliesh and his second, Detective Inspector Kate Miskin (Sarah Winman), struggle to decipher the bizarre jumble of clues. Their initial inquiry identifies a fast-growing list of suspects among Venetia's co-workers. Among them are Hubert St. John Langton (Frederick Treves), the retiring Head of Chambers, whose recent -- and frequent -- lapses in memory weigh heavily on his mind; Drysdale Laud (Matthew Marsh), whose ambition to be named new Head was being spitefully thwarted by Venetia; Desmond Ulrick (Ian McNeice; Cry Freedom, Ace Ventura), a senior member of chambers whose niece's husband, Simon Costello (Richard Huw), Venetia recently exposed as a jury tamperer; Harry Naughton (Ken Jones), the firm's chief clerk, whom Venetia labeled "an anachronism;" and even the office cleaning woman, Mrs. Carpenter (Britta Smith), who is placed at the firm at the time of death.

Also joining the lengthy list are Venetia's lover Mark Rawlstone (Miles Anderson; House of Cards, Into the Blue), an oily Member of Parliament who wanted to end their mutually unfulfilling affair; and Edmund Froggett (Philip Stone), a retired schoolteacher and Venetia's early mentor, who kept an obsessive scrapbook about her career. As for Ashe? He has an airtight alibi: He was with Octavia all night. . .

As Dalgliesh and Miskin probe Venetia's past, a complex web of interconnections begins to emerge, with several strands that appear to be rooted in a terrible secret about her father -- with a startling link to one of her colleagues in chambers.

Another pair of murders lead to a final showdown as tragic and brutal as it is surprising, leaving the Yard's top commander unable to prove a case against someone he knows is guilty.

"It is good to be reminded that our system is human and therefore fallible," the murderer tells Dalgliesh, "and that the most that we can hope to achieve is a certain justice."

A Certain Justice is a coproduction of United Film and Television Productions and WGBH Boston. Martyn Auty is producer for United Film and Television; Ross Devenish is director. Executive producers are Michele Buck (United Film and Television) and Rebecca Eaton (WGBH). The screenplay is by Michael Russell, adapted from the novel by P. D. James.

Funding for MYSTERY! is provided by public television viewers. MYSTERY! is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH Boston. Narrated descriptions of MYSTERY! programs are provided by Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®), a national service of WGBH.

A Certain Justice is presented on MYSTERY! by WGBH Boston, where Rebecca Eaton is executive producer, and Diana Rigg is series host.

This series originally aired April 15, 22 and 29, 1999.

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