Tuesday, 18th September 2018
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Ordeal By Innocence

There is a common misconception that all Agatha Christie works are somehow quaint and quite twee. This hasn't been helped by the staging of a lot of her books which always seem to happen over tea and crumpets. But the reality couldn't be further from this. Agatha Christie has a far darker outlook than she's ever really been given credit for. Her characters are not all divided into good and bad, often they are a complicated mix of the two which makes it even harder to figure out who has done the murders in her novels.

Almost everyone has a motive. No where is this more true than in the latest BBC adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's works. Over the last number of years the BBC has seemed to make it it’s mission to put Christie back where she belongs in radical retellings of some of her most famous works. In this series which was shown over three weeks the focus was on who really did murder the matriarch of a rich and influential family. It was thought that one of her sons, Jack, was the killer, as his prints appeared to be on the murder weapon and he also seemed to have no alibi for the time of the assault. He died in prison awaiting trial for the murder and that seemed to be an end to everything and the case was left lie. Then out of the blue just as the family is gearing up for the new marriage of the father to his secretary a man arrives at the house saying that he has news about Jack’s involvement in the killing. It turns out that he is Jack’s alibi but had been out of the country and didn’t know anything about the case until he returned. It later transpires that he was actually incarcerated into a lunatic asylum but even still he won’t let go of the truth that Jack never committed the murder. Now the entire family has to fall back on itself and go over the events of the murder and try and work out who the real killer was. As it turns out everyone in the family had some sort of motive. There were five children in the family, all of them adopted and the sad fact was that none of them loved or even liked the mother. She was only happy, and then not by much, when she was controlling everyone’s life. That was fine when they were children but when they grew up and began to develop personalities of their own then there were huge clashes with her on an almost daily basis. Everything came to a head the night that she was killed. She had found out that not only had one of her daughters run away but she was now married to a, to her, totally unsuitable man.

She tracked the daughter down, paid the man off and then drugged her daughter to bring her home. First of all though she brought her to a hospital to see whether her daughter was pregnant which she was and had the doctor abort the baby. When the mother came home with her daughter she off loaded her onto the cook, Kirsten. Next she goes looking for her husband only to find him in bed with his secretary.

She tells him that she is going to divorce him and leave him penniless. She then runs into Jack who has great pleasure in telling her that the other two children of hers are now in a relationship.

This sends the mother over the edge and she spitefully tells Jack that he was never an orphan and that his real mother was the family’s cook.

The mother then goes and confronts the other two children who are now in a relationship and tells them in no uncertain terms that it is to finish. She goes back to the house and while having a drink to steady her nerves is attacked and killed. Jack is really innocent because he is no where near the house and does really have an alibi although no one believes him. When he dies in jail everyone believes that is the end of everything. But it’s not. There is one person in the house, the invalid husband of one of the daughters who guesses at the truth but he is killed as well, his death passed off as an accident. The production of this series and the way in which the killer is slowly revealed is masterful. The music really adds to the menacing atmosphere of the piece and the acting is great. It is revealed who the killer is, the father, only in the last minutes and also what happens to him. A wonderful, dark and complicated telling of an Agatha Christie work.

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