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  • Writer's picturePhilip Bryer

Whodunit? Who Cares!

Updated: Feb 2

All the folderol about the BBC’s adaption of the Agatha Christie story Murder is Easy piqued my curiosity and, I must admit, there were elements of the rejigged tale which I didn’t reckon. Although they weren’t the same aspects which so exercised the Telegraph, the Mail, and GB News. A big ‘so what’ and ‘what about Olivier playing Othello?’ to all those pundits who were offended by the leading actor’s skin colour. As for the digs about colonialism, well, much as I don’t care for being told off when I’ve switched on the TV for an hour’s unchallenging diversion, it didn’t seem to take over the storyline and if the Mau Mau had infiltrated the Cotswolds and were thirsty for revenge, I must have missed that bit.

No, what really got my beans bouncing was the fact that the writer had seen fit to…what’s the expression I’m after here…? Piss all over Ms Christie’s famously well-constructed plotlines. That’s it. I don’t doubt that if the eminent author were given voice, she would take the time to advise said TV adaptor/writer that if they had ambitions to get their work on the telly they might consider coming up with original ideas of their own and “stop bleedin’ nicking mine and screwing 'em up!”

I should lift the curtain here on the private life of Mrs B and I. (But, rest easy, there’s no need, even for those of the most nervous disposition, to look away.)

We’ve watched a lot of Midsomer Murders, have gone through at least four regenerations of Miss Marple, and then there’s Lewis and Vera et al. They all have certain things in common:

·       I invariably fall asleep before the end.

·       Mrs B will ask me the following morning if we should keep the recording so I can watch it later.

·       I usually say, “No, I don’t really care. Just tell me who did it.”

Because I’m not much interested in the red herrings, the tortuous storylines, or the shocks. What I do like are the historically accurate sets, the shiny steam trains, the costumes, Rosamund Pike (she's not in all of them but we're always hopeful), the cheerfulness of the rosy-cheeked costermonger and brisk efficiency of banker, lawyer, and doctor. Then there are the smart vintage cars—chauffeured without fail by a chain-smoking card player with connections on the black market—the all-knowing butler, the drunken uncle, the ex-army officer with a secret, the stilted accents, and the way that everyone talks to each other in ways that nobody ever did.

Confession: I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel. But I understand from Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders that she was the absolute doyenne of the whodunit and the undisputed queen of the murder plot, the misdirection, and the big reveal. The problem is: I DON’T CARE.

A realisation hit me the other day: I watch detective shows like a toddler watches television. I like the shapes and I’m soothed by the colours and cheered by the pretty faces. Intricate storylines and twists and turns? Wasted on me, I’m afraid. Nodding off to comforting images and the steady rhythms of a steam train, that'll do.


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