Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Top Drawer!, 27 Sep 2011
This review is from: Lewis - Series 5 [DVD] (DVD)
This series gets better and better with its complex mysteries, its spectacular settings, its superb musical score, and its outstanding cast, both the continuing characters and the supporting players, which, in each episode, present us some of the luminaries of London theatre as well as film and television (This set includes Juliet Stevenson, Sian Phillips, Ronald Pickup, and Anna Chancellor).

The mysteries may be formulaic, but what a formula! They are elegant old-fashioned 'who-done-it?' puzzles that are nevertheless convoluted enough to keep us guessing, as we follow Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway gladly through the lanes of Oxford (and the camera focuses, for our benefit, on a carved gargoyle or gives us a closeup of one of the colleges' many gothic spires) to the gloriously picturesque scene of yet another ghastly crime in the hallowed university city where the bodies seem to pile up like cordwood.

An essential ingredient of the formula is the ensemble cast of continuing characters: Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis, Laurence Fox as Sergeant Hathaway, Claire Holman as Dr Laura Hobson, and Rebecca Front as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (What an ironic choice of a surname for a hardbitten Chief Superintendent of Police!). Their interaction--their humorous exchanges, their misunderstandings and tensions, as well as their mutual respect as professionals--represents the 'sand' that the brilliant writers have thrown into our eyes to distract us from solving the mystery until the last 'aha!' [or 'oh no!'] moment. In fact, Lewis, Hathaway, Hobson, and Innocent interact so beautifully that one can easily believe that they have become longtime colleagues, about whom we, the viewers, have come to care, as we would care about old friends.

I find myself laughing with Lewis and Hathaway at their little running jokes; hoping for the best as the romance between Robbie and Laura threatens to blossom; sympathising with both Lewis and Innocent, for different reasons, as each tries the other's patience; and even shedding a tear or two at some of the poignant moments that occur from time to time in the exchanges between Lewis and Hathaway.

I attribute my feelings of empathy to the remarkable abilities of Whately, Fox, Holman, and Front. Considering that the majority of the characters' dialogue is devoted to the questioning of sundry suspects [Lewis and Hathaway]; the enumeration of gruesome details about the current corpse [Hobson]; or barking at her wayward detectives because of pressures from swingeing budget cuts, one-or-another Whitehall Mandarin, or the dreaded Chief Constable [Innocent], we are actually glimpsing only fragments of their 'lives'--fragments that have progressed gradually from episode to episode, providing the bread, as it were, for dozens of delicious murder sandwiches (slathered with dollops of ketchup).

To appreciate the subtlety of these performances fully, one must watch "Inspector Lewis" consecutively from the first episode. And the Inspector Lewis mysteries are so rich and complex that one can enjoy them again and again (the Public Broadcasting Service has thoughtfully provided closed captioning so that we NTSC viewers won't miss a word of Lewis's gruff Geordie, or Hathaway's silken Cambridge, accents).

I'm sending out three hearty cheers: to ITV, for continuing this outstanding series; to PBS for sending us Region 1 viewers the original uncut UK edition, and to Amazon.com for bringing it to us at such a reasonable price.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Oct 2011 11:09:48 BDT
Robert Jones says:
Hello F.S. L'hoir, Well you've done it again - another splendid review! You probably don't remember, but I commented some time ago that I thought you wrote the best reviews on this site, and this contribution confirms that for me. I was most reluctant at first to consider watching this series, being a great fan of Inspector Morse, and assuming that the absence of the boozy old curmudgeon would make for a disappointing experience. How wrong I was. It's wonderful drama (as your excellent observations would make clear to anyone) and Series 5 is on its way to me.

You recommended to me Arrian's 'Campaigns of Alexander' and I must thank you for doing so as I enjoyed it enormously. I have recently read 'The Annals of Imperial Rome' and found Tacitus a most interesting writer. I am now reading Seneca (On the Shortness of Life, Consolation to Helvia, and On Tranquillity of Mind). I do envy you the scholarship and expertise which allows you to read these people in their original language. I studied elementary latin at school, but I must say that the complexity of the grammar nearly drove me round the bend! It's hard work, isn't it?

Thank you so much for the 1st class review.

Best wishes, Robert Jones

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Oct 2011 13:03:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Oct 2011 13:04:45 BDT
F. S. L'hoir says:
Hello Mr Jones, and thank you for your kind words, which I greatly appreciate. I'm so happy that you have come to enjoy the Lewis series. I am also pleased that you enjoyed Arrian and found Tacitus interesting. I must say, you have more patience with Seneca's letters than I.

For me, Greek grammar, rather than Latin [which I studied first], drove me around the bend, until I passed that nutsy-boltsy stage, in which one has to look up every other word. What with its complex verb-system, Greek grammar is the gift that keeps on giving; one never stops studying and, one hopes, learning it. Yes, it's hard work, but so rewarding when one gets to the point where one can appreciate the richness of imagery in the original texts--both Latin and Greek.

If you liked Arrian, you might also enjoy Peter Green's biography, "Alexander of Macedon". Green is one of the great Alexander scholars, but the biography is by no means turgid; it reads like a novel. Oh, and Oxford World Classics has an excellent translation of Herodotus' "The Histories," which is most entertaining. And you also might enjoy Thucydides' "The Peloponnesian War." For Thucydides, I like the Penguin edition.

Good grief, I'm beginning to sound as though I'm doing Amazon PR, so I had better stop.

Again, many thanks.

FSL
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F. S. L'hoir
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