The curious case leads back to Crevecoeur Hall, a vast, history-rich Oxford estate, and as it happens, the setting for much of Detective Sergeant Hathaway’s (Laurence Fox) youth. Hathaway reconnects with his past – and Scarlett Mortmaigne, the daughter of the estate’s owner. But is he also consorting with a main suspect? It’s a case that threatens to expose the shortcomings and secrets of a wealthy family, cloud Hathaway’s judgment and ultimately put his relationship with Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) in jeopardy.
The Dead of Winter, the second episode in the third season, opens with a melancholic Hathaway testifying in court about an atrocity commited towards a ten year old girl. He cannot shake off the image of finding her body in a water cistern. Inspector Lewis is unable to communicate with his friend, and the emotional gulf between the two partners widens. As Dr. Hobson observes caustically, “boys never let anyone in.”
When Hathaway is called to a murder at Crevecoeur Hall, the estate where he spent the first 12 years of his life as the son of the estate manager, his past life comes tumbling back. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Hathaway’s childhood, and that he had once played with the butler (Pip Carter) another child on the estate, and young Lady Scarlett (Camilla Arfwedson), for whom he still carries a tendre and who fondly calls him “James the Just.” Her engagement to a rich man does not stop her from revealing to Hathaway how very much she still is attracted to him, but for James her confession is a painful reminder of “what might have been.” James the Just can see no reason for her preferring money over love, the choice she has made.
The script weaves in these threads of James’s former life with current events and the murder of a doctor who had visited Crevecoeur Hall. As James investigates thecrime, the current estate manager of Crevecoeur Hall, whose wife had run away 20 years ago, commits suicide.
We meet an array suspects: the lord of the manor, Augustus Mortmaigne, the Marquess of Tygon (Richard Johnson); his wife, Selina Mortmaigne (Juliet Aubrey); her brother in law, Philip (Nathaniel Parker) with whom she is having an affair. Add a valuable painting that has been altered and that might hold clues, a Jesuit priest who knows more than he lets on, and a purring cat that Inspector Lewis rescues from the dead doctor’s home, and you have a fully fleshed mystery story populated with likely suspects. As both Lewis and Hathaway pursue the killer, both come at cross purposes.
That last statement of the quote that opens this review is a bit misleading. While Lewis becomes exasperated with Hathaway, whose surpressed longings for Scarlett have gotten in the way of his judgment, he has not come to the point of breaking off their relationship, and he makes it clear that he is content with Hathaway as a partner.
This second episode in Season 3 is better than the first – more tightly written and much darker in tone. The final scene is filled with suspense, and I did not guess the murderer until just before the major clue about corn starch was dropped. For those who have missed the episode, you can watch it online from September 6 through September 19.