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Miss Marple is back, and what an invigorating, happy experience this quartet of British television productions is for both mystery fans and casual viewers. The luminous Geraldine McEwan (Vanity Fair), following in the footsteps of Helen Hayes, Angela Lansbury, Margaret Rutherford, and others, essays Agatha Christie's aging, amateur sleuth as a discreet observer, knowing friend, and judicious dispenser of wisdom during murder investigations. But what really makes these crisp adaptations a delight is the endless parade of familiar actors playing those numerous suspects, baffled police, and innocent observers who routinely populate Christie's glossy, whodunit landscapes. It's hard not to be dazzled by supporting casts that include Tara Fitzgerald, Robert Powell, Simon Callow, Joanna Lumley, Ian Richardson, Jane Asher, Miriam Margolyes, Tim McInnerny, Herbert Lom, and Jenny Agutter, all nestled into gorgeous, post-World War II backdrops, usually in the English countryside.

This boxed set includes:
The Murder at the Vicarage: based on Christie's 1930 book about the killing of one hugely unlikable Colonel Protheroe (Derek Jacobi) in Jane Marple's pretty home village of St. Mary Mead. Typically, there is no end of likely suspects, but what makes the investigation unusual is a pair of competing confessions from two illicit lovers (Jason Flemyng, Janet McTeer). Stephen Tompkinson (Ballykissangel) is very good as a police inspector who slowly develops admiration for Miss Marple's keen mind.

The Body in the Library:
finds Marple aiding the brassy Dolly Bantry (Lumley) after the latter finds the body of an unknown woman in her library. Callow is wonderful as another cop who initially underestimates the heroine's gifts.

A Murder Is Announced:
in which a killing is advertised before it happens.

4:50 from Paddington:
Is about a murder without a body.

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AMP7648 Agatha Christie's Marple - Series 1 DVD (2004/Geraldine McEwan) $59.99 $54.99