Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Caribbean Mystery, ITV, review


Gerard O’Donovan reviews A Caribbean Mystery, the first of three Agatha Christie’s Marple adaptations for ITV for London’s Telegraph.

Fast Show veteran Charlie Higson, too, had a stab at rewriting history in his entertaining Agatha Christie’s Marple. ITV’s star-spangled Poirot and Marple mysteries have, over the years, become such grand, opulently produced institutions, they sometimes lapse into ponderousness totally at odds with their featherlight source material. But A Caribbean Mystery was as fresh as a breeze running in off the sea on a hot Bermudan night.

Adapted from one of Christie’s later books, it plucked the spinster sleuth from her cosy world of chocolate box cottages and bumbling vicars and plonked her down on the shimmering West Indies isle of St Honoré. Against a backdrop of palm trees and glinting blue ocean, Marple (Julia McKenzie) was confronted with a snapshot of post-colonial hedonism: blustering old soldiers, cavorting toffs, drunken philanderers – and a hotelier with a habit of dispatching his wives.

Not so different from Miss Marple’s exciting life back in St Mary Mead, perhaps, but Higson brought an easy wit to his script. Indeed the key to the entire mystery, a glass eyeball, stared viewers in the face even as the titles rolled, and the recognisable but hardly stellar cast (apart from Antony Sher) played it all with an admirable lightness of touch.

The effort to get Marple to bump into Christie’s Caribbean-loving contemporary Ian Fleming (Jeremy Crutchley) felt a little awkward (Higson has published a series of children’s books about a youthful James Bond). But it was an amusing reminder of how Fleming got the name for his muscular hero from a wimpish ornithologist and crucially, it gave Higson the opportunity to write in a cameo role for himself as the unlikely original Bond. Let’s face it, given the winter we have just endured, who could blame him for working himself into a script that guaranteed some fun in the sun?

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