RogerBW's Blog

A Caribbean Mystery 05 February 2022

1997 audio adaptation by Michael Bakewell of Christie's 1964 mystery, in five 30-minute episodes. Miss Marple's nephew sends her on a winter holiday for the good of her health, but she soon gets bored; fortunately the crusty old Major drops dead just after telling her about an unsolved murder.

This is a very reactionary story. Of course, murder mystery tends to be a conservative genre: someone has stepped outside the rules of society, and order will be restored when they are caught. But like many people Christie never really accepted that any change since her own youth could be good, and there are digs all over the place at Queers and Modern Novels and the hideous noise of a steel band and you can't get apples in this tropical paradise. More seriously, there is a rock-solid assumption that all women must want to be married, and if a widow isn't tarting herself up to go on the prowl there must be something wrong with her; meanwhile people are having sex with other people to whom they are not married, and they don't even have the decency to be ashamed of it. And because this is Michael Bakewell, all this is faithfully reflected in the adaptation, whether or not it has any narrative role to play.

The actual plot, once one gets past how everything was better in the old days, has some meat to it; the Major probably recognised the person in his photograph (which conveniently goes missing before anyone can see it), but that could still have been any of several people, and of course everyone behaves suspiciously. I am surprised that Windsor Davies should pronounce "Kenya" in the modern way while playing a crusty old soldier, but maybe he was told to; the younger women are prone to drop into simpering poor-little-me voices, but otherwise do a decent job.

Do they have herring gulls in the Caribbean? Probably. I might not have put them quite so far forward in the mix for the beach background, though; it's quite a distinctive sound. Otherwise the sound production works pretty well, keeping vocal sources separated without making a point of it.

Did it need the full 150 minute treatment as opposed to the single-part 90-minute given to some of Christie's novels? Probably not; there's a fair bit of marking time. But it's a decent adaptation overall.

  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 04:47pm on 05 February 2022

    According to Cornell University's ornithology dept, some Herring Gulls migrate to Caribbean islands for the winter. But yeah, they should have phoned up the BBC Natural History Unit and asked for some recordings of Laughing Gulls or other local species instead.

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