The Cat Among the Pigeons, the new Hercule Poirot mystery on PBS’s Mystery was as satisfying an Agatha Cristie mystery as I’ve seen in a long time. If you missed this episode on June 21, PBS will make it availabe for online viewing between June 22 and July 5, 2009.
Written in 1959, this novel translates very well into a t.v. special. Most rewarding are the number of familiar British actors who have portrayed characters in Jane Austen film adaptations. This episode stars Harriet Walter as Miss Bullstrode, head mistress of Meadowbank Girl’s School. She wishes to retire, but before she does, she invites Mr. Poirot to study the teachers in her school to make certain that she has read their characters correctly, for one of them will be appointed the new head mistress. Before Mr. Poirot can advise her, the nasty gym teacher, Miss Springer (Elizabeth Berrington), is killed in a gruesome manner – impaled by a javelin through the heart. (Shades of the priest being killed in the originalThe Omen.) The remaining staff swiftly become murder suspects, as Poirot works with Inspector Kelsey (Anton Lesser, who recently played Mr. Merdle in Little Dorrit) to uncover the murderer. The mystery deepens as another body is found, the princess of Ramat is kidnapped and her deceased father’s priceless rubys go missing. Needless to say, the school is in trouble, with parents removing their daughters as the bodies pile up.
David Suchet is remarkable as the Belgian detective, Inspector Poirot. Poirot’s stories are among my least favorite of the Agatha Christie mysteries, but Suchet is so superb in the role that I cannot wait to see the next episode. Sharp-eyed movie buffs will note that both Harriet Walter and Claire Skinner, who plays Miss Rich, a teacher with a past, played Fanny Dashwood, the former in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and the
latter in last year’s version of Sense & Sensibility. Both performances were excellent, though I was struck by how soft Ms. Skinner looks in this part as compared to her turn as the hard hearted Fanny. Natasha Little, Becky Sharp in 1998’s Vanity Fair, plays an enigmatic character and love interest to the handsome Adam, (Adam Croasdell), a man who is out of place as a lowly gardener. “There’s a cat among the pigeons,” the French teacher Mlle Blanche (Amanda Raison) declares to Mr. Poirot before things go bump in the night again.
PBS will be showing Six by Agatha from June 21 through July 26th. The next episode to air is Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, another Poirot tale. I will most definitely be glued in front of my t.v. watching Mystery! again.