Wednesday 29 October 2008

Talking to Strange Men

I read Ruth Rendell’s novel Talking to Strange Men not long after it came out, just over 20 years ago, but I had forgotten the plot by the time I came to watch a re-run of the television adaptation starring John Duttine (one of Britain’s most charismatic actors, I’ve long felt), and the gorgeous, if glacial, Mel Martin. (Keeley Hawes, now the glamorous co-star of Ashes to Ashes, had a small part, though I must admit I didn’t recognise her until the credits revealed her identity.)

The story involves a group of boys who are involved in sending coded messages which Duttine’s character intercepts, but fails to understand. Duttine is embittered by the fact that his wife (Martin) has deserted him for a man called Peter Mullen. He doesn’t want to lose Martin and refuses her a divorce. He also tries to implicate Mullen in the murder of his long-dead sister, but it turns out that Mullen has an alibi – because, at the time of the killing, he was molesting a young boy, a crime for which he served a short prison sentence. As a result of a typically Rendellesque series of coincidences, Mullen becomes involved with one of the boys involved in the secret code game, with fatal results.

I enjoyed the novel, and relished the televised version all over again. And here’s a bit of trivia – Duttine and Martin fell for each other while working on the programme, and married a year later.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Rendell really is a plotting genius. Book for book, I doubt there is any better.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about John Duttine. Ever since being mesmerized by his performance in "To Serve Them All My Days," I've tried to track down videos of his other TV and movie appearances -- not that easy from the USA! Alas, I haven't been able to find a copy of "Talking to Strange Men." Amazon Prime recently picked up some series of the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, but they start after this episode. Bummer. I would love to see it sometime.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks. I'll look for the Amazon series.