Consider all the detective series now available on DVDs: Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, Philip Marlowe, and the like. The success of each one depends on the individuality of the sleuth himself rather than the mysteries. The first three on that list are real "characters" in the "eccentric" sense of the word, whereas the other three series seem to rely more on the settings rather than on the main character.
We can now add to this list, thanks to Acorn Media, the first set of the "Inspector Alleyn Mysteries" (AMP-7427), based on mystery novels by Ngaio Marsh, with Patrick Malahide in the title role. Here we have a time setting of post-WWII England and a place setting of old manor houses and remote fishing villages. Alleyn himself is a bit aristocratically stodgy in the first two episodes, a bit looser in the last two. One interesting gimmick is that his sidekick, Detective Inspector Fox (William Simons) is every bit as sharp as his boss, far from the Watson prototype (labeled by humorist Stephen Leacock "the poor nut").
"A Man Lay Dead" concerns priceless relics "liberated" during the war and now in the hands of collectors. "The Nursing Home Murder" reminds me of that classic British film "Green for Danger" in which a similar group of doctors and nurses fall under suspicion after a patient dies inexplicably during an operation.
"Final Curtain" is like the scherzo movement of this set, extremely funny until things turn nasty at the manor home of a once popular ham actor who brings a young bimbo into a home filled with relations who expect to inherit quite a bit. "Death at the Bar" revolves around a complex set of relationships and a dart-throwing expert who misses just once.
Belinda Long appears in the first three episodes as the love interest in Alleyn's life and practically the star of the third episode. And as is true with most of these British mini-series, the supporting casts are very good to superb.
The only bonuses are the usual printed author biography and cast filmographies. Not as much fun as Wimsey or Poirot, but very good of its kind. Look for it towards the end of January 2005.