Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TV: The Murder at the Vicarage (McEwan)

First, two caveats: 1) I have never read this book, although I have read other Miss Marples and 2) I have not seen any of the Joan Hickson Miss Marple adaptations since I was a child, so Geraldine McEwan is my default Miss Marple, although I know these versions are somewhat controversial.

This is the first Miss Marple book, and so also the first in the McEwan TV series. I loved it, mostly. It's set right in St. Mary Mead, so it has all that lovely village life with cottages and flowers and tea and vicarages. It's my favorite type of escapist books/TV, really. An abrasive local squire (Derek Jacobi!) is found dead in the vicarage, and Miss Marple must help the police figure out what happened. Considering the small number of characters, there are a fair number of plot twists and the solution is pretty complex.

There was one element I didn't like: the nightmarish flashbacks that Miss Marple kept having. Sure, it was interesting to have some context for her, but they really pulled me out of the story. I'm not sure the flashbacks occur in any but the first episode; the only other episode I can think of with flashbacks is At Bertram's Hotel, and those flashbacks are to her childhood and fit in better with the story, I think.

Despite the flashbacks, I really enjoyed this and I'm looking forward to watching the whole series in order. (I saw a few scattered episodes when they aired on PBS.) I think Geraldine McEwan is a perfect Miss Marple: she's witty and sharp, but also gentle and caring, and really looks perfect for the role. And, of course, there's the knitting!

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