Nemesis was one of Agatha Christie's last books, and by common consent it falls some way short of being a masterpiece. Yet, such is the power of the Christie brand that it has twice been adapted for television. I missed both of the original screenings, including the Geraldine McEwan version (and may not have been a great loss , I don't know) but I've now caught up - very, very belatedly - with the 1987 version starring the marvellous Joan Hickson as Jane Marple.
The screenplay was written by T.R. Bowen, a screenwriter very experienced in adapting Christie. Bowen avoids the mistake of making changes just for the sake of them. He tweaks the story a bit, introducing a god-son of Marple who acts as a sort of Dr Watson, but the advantage of adapting a story that is by no means a classic is that it's possible to improve on some of the weaker elements, and this Bowen does.
The premise of the story is rather odd, in that a dead millionaire sends Miss Marple on a coach tour, visiting historic houses and gardens and hoping that along the way she will find out whether or not his son really was a murderer. The son's girlfriend was murdered, and he was the prime suspect, but never tried. The plot involves a rather unlikely mistaken identity and a motive with a suppressed sexual element. Not classic Christie, then, but Bowen turns it into something very watchable.
What struck me, not for the first time with the Hickson series, was the excellence of the cast. John Horsley, a professor here, was the lecherous and inept doctor in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Anna Cropper, a charismatic actor who was once married to William Roache (alias Ken Barlow), is among the suspects. And Peter Copley, once a constant presence in British television shows, made the most of a small part as a vague cleric.
Finally, regular readers will have noticed that I've deviated lately from my usual pattern of blogs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and that I've been slightly more active. This is partly due to the number of good TV shows that I've seen lately and on which I wanted to say a few words. In 2014, I'm planning to producee three posts most weeks,but occasionally more. I'm back on Monday -with a review of the new Ann Cleeves novel, Harbour Street.