Friday, January 02, 2009

Must Watch Friday:: Detective Romance

This is a toughie, so many films, so many great TV series, which one to choose? I thought about Battlestar Galactica but compared to fangirl, Donna I am merely a Johnny-come-lately who still hasn’t made it through series three. There is a good reason for this, I am watching it with a friend and we have limited joint TV watching time.

Or I thought about talking about NCIS… mmm Mark Harmon. Or Band of Brothers. The Breakfast Club, maybe. Or even Sixteen Candles. There are so many great stories out there full of characters to inspire you or for you to fall for. I even find myself with some films writing the sequel. What happened to the gang in The Breakfast Club when they went to school on Monday morning?

It has been tough and I have had to sacrifice myself in the name of research but I have decided that a must watch is the 1980s BBC adaptations of The Dorothy L Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. (These should not be mixed up with the Ian Carmichael starring ones of the 1970s.)

When I was but an impressionable girl, the BBC adapted three of Dorothy L Sayers Peter Wimsey novels for TV starring Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter and Harriet Walters as Harriet Vane. Now I fell in love with the novels a few years before this but had read them purely as detective fiction, with Lord Peter and his faithful valet, Bunter solving crimes.

What I had failed to see, until the TV series, was the romance between Lord Peter and Harriet. And my, what a romance it was. From the first time he saw her on trial for murder in ‘Strong Poison’ until the end of ‘Gaudy Night’ he was constant in his love for her.
If you have ever read the novels they are based on, ‘Strong Poison’, ‘Have His Carcase’ and ‘Gaudy Night’, then the TV series are reasonably faithful to the books and the casting was perfect. Edward Petherbridge has the blonde, foolish face of Lord Peter with the sharp mind behind it. And Harriet Walter, dark haired and bruised as Harriet Vane should be.

One of the wonderful things about them is the costumes and settings of 1930s England. If you can ignore the rather cardboard indoor studios which were common in 1980s adaptations before they started using actual places, you will love them.

Through ‘Strong Poison’ where Lord Peter is bent on clearing Harriet’s name, through to the brittle splendour of a seaside resort in ‘Have His Carcase’ to the spires of Oxford and the suspense of their relationship. Will Harriet's heart over-rule her head? Can women have both a career and a meaningful relationship based on honesty? Oh and at the same time solving crimes committed in a women’s college.

I will admit that I have been in love with Peter Wimsey for years, and as I am somewhat near the age Harriet Vane was when she eventually succumbed to him I can quite see why she did. No dark Mediterranean alpha male will ever be able to compete with the pure sexiness than Ms Sayers managed to create in Lord Peter. The man who is looking for his intellectual partner in life, and his final marriage proposal:
"Placet, magistra?"

Skip the Ian Carmichael versions as they portray Wimsey in his foolish aristocratic mask (and he’s dark, when Wimsey should always be blonde!) and see how Edward Petherbridge can make a monocle and a rather ridiculous nose make your heart beat just that little bit faster.

I’m biased and so give these an 11 out of 10 for all round fabulosity!

If you love period detective drama with a splash of romance and can ignore the slightly dated production then you’ll love these series. And once you’ve seen them head out and buy the books. Dorothy L Sayers beats Agatha Christie hands down!

When Biddy isn't glued to the TV, she is carrying on the path to publication! The book is with M&B and she is cracking on with book number 2. To keep up with her writing journey check out her blog .


  1. Hmmm. Lord Peter Wimsey?

    One of my sisters had a major crush on this guy (in the TV series that is) and we watched it every week as a result. I can't say I got it... Posh Brits are not my thing I guess, but the series as a whole was beautifully written and performed so it wasn't a hardship.

    Happy New Year Biddy.

    Heidi x

  2. Happy New Year Heidi!

    Well I fell for the character in the book first and then Edward Petherbridge was a good approximation. I had been thinking who could play Wimsey if they did it again... Sam West maybe??

    Biddy x