Tuesday 24 November 2009

Poirot and a Lake District Mystery

I was amazed, the other day, to chance upon a repeat on ITV3 of an episode of Poirot from 1990 that I hadn’t seen before, and which was set in the Lake District. I couldn’t remember an Agatha Christie story set in the Lakes – despite the fact that she knew Cheshire through her visits to Abney Hall and Marple, I am pretty sure that she wrote fewer stories set in the north of England than in the Middle East.

The story in question was based on ‘Double Sin’, which (in the UK) appears in the posthumous collection entitled Poirot’s Early Cases. The literary Lakes mystery was easily solved – in the original version, the story is set on the south coast of England, with which Dame Agatha was very familiar indeed.

The televised adaptation – written by the late Clive Exton, a first class screenwriter whose work was consistently reliable – benefited considerably from the scenic backdrop. The mystery was slight, involving a scam concerning the sale of valuable Victorian miniatures, but the interplay between Poirot, Hastings, Miss Lemon and Japp was done so agreeably that an hour passed by very enjoyably.

As a postscript to this Lake District post, I want to add how shocked and saddened I have been to see the television pictures showing the devastation wrought by floods in parts of Cumbria, including Cockermouth, where Wordsworth lived, and Keswick, where I stayed just a month ago. My heart goes out to those whose lives have been so dreadfully affected.


Kerrie said...

I'm really amazed at the ease with which TV versions change locations, and even characters, of original stories!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Martin, I hope life returns to at least a semblance of normalcy to the folks in the Lake District, soon. Awful footage I've seen on TV recently!

"Double Sin" I don't remember at all--but if it was in a collection, that might be why. It sounds like the film version was fun to watch.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kerrie - TV versions readily change so much about a story. Sometimes, as with this one, the changes work. Other times, I'm really disappointed in them.

David Cranmer said...

I've never been entirely happy with any of the TV or film adaptations of Christie's work.

Paul Beech said...

I’m right with you over the horror of the floods in Cumbria. When we see images of collapsed bridges and the stricken faces of flood victims returning home to mud and devastation, it puts other things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Thank goodness for the excellence of the emergency services, from those mounting rescue operations by dinghy and helicopter to the homelessness teams placing people in temporary accommodation. I know all our thoughts will be with the wife and family of PC Bill Barker, who was swept to his death whilst bravely protecting the public, when Northside Bridge collapsed into the River Derwent at Workington on Friday.

Against all the misery and ruination, it has at least been heartening to witness the response of communities, with people coming together to help each other through, in true British style.


Nan said...

I can't seem to find this on Netflix and yet they offer zillions of Poirots. :<( I'll keep looking. I so enjoy watching those four characters interact.

Deb said...

I think I've seen most of the Poirots--I have a vague memory of this one. We've started watching them again now that our kids are older and enjoy watching along with us. The thing I notice now that I didn't notice so much the first time around is the extended car or foot chases used to pad out the time.

I was unaware of the Lake District flooding. I live in a flood-prone area myself and it's never easy when the rain starts falling (and falling and falling). My heart goes out to anyone affected.

Martin Edwards said...

Thank you very much for these comments.
Nan, I don't know Netflix, but I thought this episode was a good example of light entertainment. Undemanding compared even to many Christies, but still nicely done. Exton was very capable. So I hope you can track it down.
Deb, you are right about the padding!
The Lakes are a by-word for rain, but the torrential downpours that have affected Cumbria in the past week exceed anything experienced before. It's shocking to see bridges that have stood for over a century destroyed by the sheer weight of water, and it is bound to be quite a time before some communities recover.