Vintage Gothic Thriller Pits Innocence Against Avarice on MYSTERY!
The Stephen King of the 19th century -- J.S. Le Fanu -- comes to MYSTERY! with his 1869 horror classic, The Wyvern Mystery. A wyvern is a two-legged dragon and a code word in gothic fiction for something truly sinister.
Derek Jacobi (Cadfael; Breaking the Code; I, Claudius; Gladiator) stars as squire Fairfield, the ruthless patriarch of Wyvern Manor. Naomi Watts (David Lynch's Mulholland Drive) plays his beautiful adopted daughter, Alice Maybell.
Iain Glen (Painted Lady; The Blue Room with Nicole Kidman) is Charles Fairfield, the squire's dashing elder son and rival with the squire for Alice's affections. Jack Davenport (The Talented Mr. Ripley) is Harry Fairfield, the squire's dissolute younger son who aids Charles and Alice in their secret elopement.
The mysterious madwoman, Vrau, is played with chilling psychosis by Aisling O'Sullivan (Michael Collins; The American).
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (pronounced Léff-anew) was so popular in the late 1800s that Henry James used him to furnish a short story, describing a room with "the customary novel of Mr. Le Fanu for the bedside; the ideal reading in a country house for the hours after midnight."
Like the decaying mansions in his books, Le Fanu's fame fell into decline, leaving it to a new generation of readers to rediscover this master of the scary story.
Episode One opens with the child Alice, newly orphaned and taken under the wing of squire Fairfield. Twelve years go by and Alice is now grown up and a prospective mate in the lascivious eyes of the squire. No sooner does he propose than the gallant Charles spirits Alice to a church for preemptory nuptials. Charles' brother, Harry, assists.
Fleeing the squire's hold, the newlyweds move to remote Carwell Grange, where life is bliss -- notwithstanding the dispirited housekeeper, the wing with rooms painted entirely in black, and Charles' increasingly strange behavior and frequent references to "the old soldier" in whispered conversations with Harry. Soon Alice is pregnant and afflicted with nightmares. These become terrifyingly real one night when a madwoman bursts through the wall, threatens Alice with a knife, and then stabs Charles while claiming she is his wife.
Episode Two finds Alice shocked into labor by the incident with the deranged Vrau. Alice delivers a boy and takes him to the dying Charles to strengthen his will to live. Fearing infection, Charles' doctor sends the newborn to a wet nurse in a nearby village, against Alice's protests. Both Charles and the child soon die, and Alice is denied an inheritance by the squire. Adding to her turmoil is news from Harry that the squire was no friend to her father, but rather hastened his death. Alice is devastated, and, following a blistering confrontation with the squire, cuts off all ties with Wyvern Manor.
Five years later, Alice quietly pays her annual visit to her baby's grave. Stopping briefly at her childhood home, she encounters the squire, a visibly broken man, murmuring incoherently. Shaken, she meets Harry, who now controls the family estates. He is friendly but evasive when Alice tries to pin him down on newly discovered inconsistencies in the events surrounding her child's death. Suspecting that the boy may still be alive, she begins a search for clues -- a quest that takes her to the hidden cell of the dangerously demented Vrau.
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