RogerBW's Blog

Mrs McGinty's Dead 02 August 2021

2006 audio adaptation of Christie's 1952 mystery, in five half-hour episodes. The snoopy cleaning-woman was bashed on the head, supposedly by her lodger for a little cash; but a little earlier, she'd got excited over a tabloid article about "Women Victims of Bygone Tragedies", some of whom may have sinned more than been sinned against.

1950s Christie is often good, but sometimes feels as though all the ideas have been used, and baroque twists or extra complications are needed to keep things fresh. Here there's some explicit misdirection, basically the magician's technique: you're shown that the thing cannot have happened yet, and later shown that it has happened, but the trick, the substitution, the murder, actually happens before or after the point in time, or somewhere other than the point in space, to which your attention is drawn.

The adaptation makes a decent fist of it: John Moffatt had over twenty outings as Poirot under his belt when this was recorded, and he manages to keep the character both interesting and at least a bit sympathetic as he copes with an "amusingly" ghastly bed and breakfast as well as the actual murder. Poirot too easily becomes self-satisfied and pompous when his speeches have to be read out loud, but that's avoided here.

Also of course this is a story that includes my favourite of Christie's recurring characters, her self-projection Ariadne Oliver (here played by Julia MacKenzie); indeed, this is the one where she admits to the blow-pipe problem in Death in the Clouds, and tries to deal with having first written a character as thirty years old and then continued to write about him for the next thirty-five years. Those are in the adaptation; as usual with these Michael Bakewell versions of Christie, all the good bits of dialogue are kept, and what's excised is barely noticeable. (Indeed, the obligatory unconvincing romance works if anything somewhat better here than in the book.)

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