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marthawells

Martha Wells

The Invisible Woman


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marthawells

Mystery Guide Part III

See Mystery Guide Part II

Again, this is just my opinion, YMMV, and if you're concerned about violence or other triggering elements, you should probably check with someone who has seen the show recently and can answer your questions more accurately.


Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part III


The Last Detective stars Peter Davison (the fifth Doctor) and is based on a series of novel by Leslie Thomas, set in modern day UK. Davison plays "Dangerous" Davies, who basically got reduced in rank for being too honest, and now has to work in the crappiest police department ever, and just tries to solve crimes without being a jerk. I liked this series a lot, and especially the fact that while we see Davies' life get progressively worse for a while, we do also see it get better, and the series did end on a high note.


Vera is from a book series by Ann Cleeves, about an older woman DCI. Bonus in the first season is Wunmi Mosaku as a young DC. The stories are nicely complex and Vera is still dealing with issues from the death of her father, who was kind of a jerk. It's got beautiful scenery, including Vera's DS Joe Ashworth. And it's just nice to see an older woman playing the gruff experienced DCI with issues for a change. The first three seasons are on acorn.tv


Ripper Street is set in Victorian London post-Jack the Ripper, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. One problem is that BBC America chops shows to bits to add in more commercials, and Ripper Street suffers pretty dramatically from this. Another is that it doesn't do a great job of realistically portraying Victorian London, and there are a lot of things involving the costumes, sets, and language that throw me out of the story. Other than that, the characters can be pretty interesting and sometimes the stories are really good. It does get gross at times with blood and violence, which didn't bother me, but might bother some people.


Campion is another Peter Davison series (Peter Davison has done a lot of series, basically) based on the Margery Allingham books, set in the 1930s UK. I've read the books, and basically like the series much better. Davison is always engaging, and the relationship between Campion and Lugg (criminal turned manservant) is consistently hilarious.


Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is another period piece starring Diana Rigg, set in the 1920s. Mrs. Bradley is an older, sexually liberated woman who travels with her chauffeur George (they are very close) and solves mysteries. (This is also from a book, but I enjoyed the series a lot more.) This one deals with some pretty serious issues, but the relationship between Mrs. Bradley and George is great, and I love Diana Rigg as a sexy older woman who doesn't take crap.


Hamish MacBeth is about a village policeman in Scotland in modern day, and it's one of my favorite shows. It manages to be quirky and warm while also being darkly, dark, very darkly funny (in one episode, the villagers accidentally eat a guy), and it is definitely not a cozy, as the characters deal with murder, spousal abuse, attempted suicide, and major character death. (There is an episode where Hamish's dog is run over, and this actually didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, because it was handled in a very sensitive way and treated very seriously, and also Hamish went off to hunt down the people who had done it and kill them, and there was a lot of cathartic wish-fulfillment in that.) There are sexy bits, unconventional relationships, and supernatural elements, like one character who has precognitive visions, a couple of episodes where ghosts are a factor. Basically, you never know what's going to happen because the show might do anything. It's completely nuts, and I loved it. (It's also from a book series, but the books are very different and I really disliked them. (If the show is warm but dark, the books are just cold and dark.)


Rosemary and Thyme is set in modern day UK (with occasional trips to France, Italy, etc), about two older women (one a horticulturist and the other a former policewoman turned gardener) who travel around and solve mysteries and work as landscape gardeners. They go to some places with beautiful scenery. I like this one a lot too, and it's fairly cozy, violence is offscreen, though it does deal with serious issues sometimes. Again, it's nice to see a series with older women actually getting to do stuff.

... and there's also The Artful Detective which I have found to be great fun.

I was hoping you'd get to The Last Detective, as I watched it a couple years ago and enjoyed it greatly. Bit on the cozy/forumlaic style but the characters are engaging and I really like Peter Davison.

I'll have to check out Bradley and the two Davisons, I usually like him in things.

I've been watching _Rosemary and Thyme_, and I like the characters but I've become somewhat annoyed at their tendency to steal and conceal evidence. It's one thing to work in parallel to a police investigation, it's another thing to sabotage it.

Well, maybe Thyme knows too much about real police work, being ex herself, her husband, and her son.

Among other virtues, this series really uses its premise; good research about some obscure horticultural stuff that is really the key to each mystery. Or at least to why they get to stick around.

Also marvelously elegant opening credits, and theme music.

I'm going to have to pick up a few of these, I adore Peter Davison and Diana Rigg. Mrs. Bradley Mysteries sounds particularly good.

I agree that the TV version of the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries was a lot more fun than the books. Although now that they're showing the Australian "Miss Fisher's Mysteries" (which is also set in the 1920's, but whose heroine is still youngish enough to be qualify as a flapper) on one of the local PBS stations, it's even more striking in hindsight how much Mrs. Bradley, whom the author repeatedly informed us looked rather like an elderly crocodile, was glammed up for TV purposes. Admittedly, this would probably have been impossible to avoid once they'd cast Diana Rigg in the part. What I'm trying to say is that in retrospect, the TV version of Mrs. Bradley comes across more like Phryne Fisher plus twenty-five years or so and with more impressive professional credentials (Bradley definitely had some kind of doctorate in the books), while the book version of her struck me as more akin to a more cynical and predatory version of Dr. Ruth.

I don't think the whole 1920's aspect played much, if any, role in the original Bradley novels, either (unlike the Phryne Fisher series). I believe there were something like a dozen Mrs. Bradley novels, and they were mostly either written in or tacitly set in the 1930's and '40's. The producers probably changed the time period to the 1920's because it suited the more self-consciously sophisticated approach they intended to take, as opposed to the less deliberately time-specific, but more acidly satirical tone of the novels. Much like the current Father Brown TV series wound up being set in the 1950's so they could cater to the "Foyle's War"/"Inspector Gently"-inspired taste some British viewers--or TV decision-makers--seem to have developed for a not-too-distant historical take on social issues such as, in Father Brown's case, foreign refugees and the initial crumbling of the British class system. This time setting is a noticeable change from the original short stories. When I read an omnibus edition of Chesterton's complete Father Brown stories as a kid, I was disappointed to discover that there was no supernatural or even faux-supernatural element to one of the final stories, despite the author's referring to one of the characters involved as "a village vampire." Apparently Chesterton was either old-fogeyishly behind the times in regard to contemporary slang, or this term for a Theda Bara-type temptress had not yet been routinely shortened to "vamp." Either way, the odd word choice suggests that the last of the original Father Brown stories were written sometime in the 1930's, at the latest.