Diana Rigg Stars as Jazz Age Detective Adela Bradley |
Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Diana Rigg does a quick change from MYSTERY! host to heroine as she dons a truly stunning wardrobe to play crime-solving psychologist Adela Bradley in The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries.
Based on the delightful whodunits by author Gladys Mitchell, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries premiered on MYSTERY! with a pilot episode, Speedy Death, which USA Today called "grandly entertaining" and Entertainment Weekly hailed as, "A delightfully twisty tale of obsession and murder...a sophisticated treat." It just gets better with four brand-new cases.
Arrayed in the most stylish fashions of the 1920s, Mrs. Bradley is dressed to kill -- or, more precisely, dressed to investigate killings. The crimes are a mystery lover's mélange, from an eradicated educator at a fancy girls' school to a ritual rub-out at a seaside resort.
Joining Mrs. B. is her handsome confidant and chauffeur, George Moody, played by Neil Dudgeon (Inspector Morse). Wherever their Rolls Royce carries them, they encounter murders that people are just too embarrassed to report to the police. Just in case, Inspector Christmas (Peter Davison) usually shows up--and in the last episode, in a most interesting context.
Death at the Opera is set at Mrs. B.'s alma mater, Hadleigh Heights Academy for Young Ladies, where she has been invited to give an annual lecture. During the preliminaries -- a student production of The Mikado -- one of the teachers fails to make her stage entrance. She's dead, of course, though whether from murder or stage fright is a mystery. The principal's husband, Dr. Simms (Roy Barraclough), diagnoses a heart attack and sees no reason to call authorities. But Mrs. B. notices signs of a struggle, and she soon turns up no lack of suspects and motives.
The victim's lover was apparently art teacher Max Valentine (David Tennant), who is observed at a local nightspot dancing the tango with Mrs. Simms (Susan Wooldridge). Then there is deputy principal Mona Bunting (Anabel Apsion) who seems to have been having affairs with the victim and Max. Unfortunately, she ends up asphyxiated in the school's kitchen oven. Things look very bad for Max when it is learned he is using an assumed name. Then there is Plum Fisher (Carli Norris), the scholarship girl who found the first body. In British murder mysteries, it's always the scholarship girl....
The Rising of the Moon takes Mrs. B. and George to the circus, where the girlfriend-assistant of knife thrower Castries (Francis Magee) is found dead in a Jack-the-Ripper-style slaying. Castries has a fierce temper and plenty of weapons. But Archie the clown (Ken Collie) also has a motive, since he lost top billing to Castries when Madame Marlene (Meera Syal) became circus manager.
Archie seals the case against himself when he is caught red-handed standing over Madame Marlene's corpse with a bloody knife. He manages to escape by hijacking George and the Rolls. "Tell me," says George driving off with the fugitive clown, "where do you go when you run away from the circus?" But things are not what they seem, for at this moment, miles away, Mrs. B. is about to become victim number four just as she is discovering victim number three.
Laurels Are Poison involves Mrs. B. and George in a case of pharmacological forensics, supernatural science, and the sociology of underwear. That is to say, the victim has been killed with poison, apparently by a ghost, and the key clue is a missing corset on the corpse. Of the last, Mrs. B. observes: "The tyranny of the foundation garment is one of the major obstacles to the full emancipation of women."
The setting is the haunted country manor of Mrs. B.'s old friend Lady Isabel Marchmont (Phyllida Law). Also in residence are Isabel's pregnant daughter Lacey (Joanna Roth), grandchild Algernon, and creepy son-in-law Douglas (Ronan Vibert). Strange as it may seem, Seth the gardener (Stuart Bunce) has a threatening hold over Lacey and Douglas. Meanwhile, something odd is going on in the pantry between Mrs. Parkin the cook (Michele Dotrice) and Alf the chauffeur (Kenneth MacDonald), leaving the cook's daughter Jessie (Valerie Gogan) as the only denizen of the estate untouched by intrigue.
Mrs. Parkin is the first corpse to turn up. Seth is the second. A heart-rending subplot involves the World War I experiences of all the men in the story, including George whose family learned of his brother's death from a letter written coincidentally by Douglas. Needless to say, the specter that haunts the manor is called The Ghost of the Soldier.
The Worsted Viper ends the season with a double celebration: Mrs. B.'s esteemed colleague Inspector Christmas is being honored for services to a seaside town; at the same locale, George's daughter Cecily (Rebecca Callard) is marrying hotel clerk Ronald Quincey (Eddie Marsan). The festivities are marred when the daughter of Reverend Baines (John Bowe) turns up dead on the beach, a worsted viper tied around her neck and her hair roughly shorn. It reminds Mrs. B. of the case of Black Jack Briggs, involving similar murders centered on a religious cult.
Another victim with a worsted viper appears, suggesting that this town has more to worry about than smugglers, adulterers, and chicken thieves. Add to that devil worshipers. Piecing together clues from the victims, the parish register, and letters to a local advice columnist called Miss Behavior, Mrs. B. concludes that the risk factors for sudden death are weddings and virginity, which point ominously to Cecily as the next target. In the course of the surprising solution, we learn how Inspector Christmas got his name.
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