RogerBW's Blog

Murder Is Easy 18 June 2021

2013 audio adaptation of Christie's 1939 mystery, in three half-hour episodes. Luke Fitzwilliam runs into a dotty old lady who's going to London to report a series of murders in her small village… but she's "accidentally" killed before she can get anywhere.

Patrick Baladi as Fitzwilliam is thoroughly smooth, perhaps even a little too smooth for a colonial policeman retired young and back in England for the first time in years, while Lydia Leonard as the inevitable (for Christie in this period) romantic foil does a good job but can't quite hack the RP accent that everyone else is able more or less to manage. Ben Crowe rather steals the show in the small part of the local cut-price Crowley.

One particular clue (gung gur zheqrere vf znyr) is very obviously a red herring, and realising that it must be one gives the listener a solid non-diegetic lead which the principals of course can't pay attention to – and this makes Luke in particular look a bit stupid; but that is in the original, and removing it would rather break the adaptation.

One thing that is unfortunately changed is the romantic element. Bridget says that she's safe because "heroines are never killed", and in the book Luke restrains himself from pointing out that that doesn't apply because she isn't a heroine (in part because he's chasing the Wrong Girl, who's almost written out of this version); in the adaptation, apart from the absence of Wrong Girl, he can't use that bit since it's not spoken out loud (and Joy Wilkinson, dramatising, for the most part wisely avoids internal monologue), and instead he says something about "solve the murder and bag myself the heroine" – which isn't wrong exactly, but it removes some of the distinctiveness from him and the relationship and makes it all more generic-hero. Similarly, the threat of magical ookiness (perhaps prefiguring The Pale Horse) is largely absent from the book's narrative.

Given how much Christie tended to write to a pattern at times, it seems like a shame to downplay several of the elements that make this book distinctive from her others, but this is an enjoyable 90 minutes even so.

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