British Mysteries

2:22 PM

A few months ago, a co-worker of Kyle's told him about a British mystery show that he really liked: Foyle's War. It was interesting, historically accurate and best of all, available at our public library. Kyle thought it was something I might like and he checked out one.

We were hooked, big-time.
The show is set in Hastings, England during early WWII, a time period which Kyle and I both found fascinating and extremely educational.

The main character is Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, (played by Michael Kitchen). He has a team of two others who are incredibly likeable, but of all characters I have ever seen on TV, DCS Foyle has to be my favorite. He's handsome, intelligent, classy, droll...he's classic. He pauses in a certain way when speaking...he quirks his mouth...he tilts his head...he always wears great suits...he is Christopher Foyle. And he has an amazing way of putting bad guys in their place in a way that Kyle and I call "getting Foyled." Although if Foyle isn't around and his Sergeant Milner has to take care of business, you run a more than fair chance of "Getting Milnered." Which is just as fun.

It turns out there were 6 seasons with about 3 episodes per season. But each episode is movie length - an hour and a half.  Kyle and I would put the kids to bed, grab our laptop and sit in bed and watch Foyle until, sadly, we watched all the seasons and were feeling very sad and missing British accents and British detectives and British countryside scenes and mostly, Michael Kitchens.

But then we discovered another British investigator,  Inspector Morse. Slightly less likeable as a character, but brilliant in his own way, we transferred our loyalty to him. He's grumbly, grouchy, but highly cultured. Once again, movie length episodes, set in beautiful England (mostly in Oxford) with clever plots and interesting personal quirks.

I personally find Morse less likeable, but Kyle thinks he's good in ways very different from Foyle. He's more of a broken human being, but somehow, because of that, his triumphs are even better. He also has a hilarious side-kick who later got his own show (Lewis). We haven't hit those yet. These episodes ran from 1987 to 2000, just for a historical reference.

Then, we got sidetracked briefly with another British series, Prime Suspect, starring a favorite actress, Helen Mirren. I love her. It's gritty, raw, much more urban than the other two. It never left me feeling uplifted like Foyle and Morse. And truthfully, Kyle and I only made it through Season 1 of the British version of Prime Suspect before searching for more uplifting, cleverly written episodes that transported us to British countryside rather than cheap London flats. The initial season was set in 1991, so obviously that's quite different from the mid-30's.

After abandoning Prime Suspect (which has since been made into a US version), we switched back to more pleasant murder mysteries in the form of Agatha Christie!
Specifically, Jane Marple.
Or, as we refer to her around here...


My kids ask us all the time, "Momma, Daddy, are you gonna Marple it tonight?" Marple has become a verb much in the same way that Foyle did in our house.

Oh, I can't tell you how much I love these Marples....Geraldine McEwan as Jane Marple is sublime. I kid you not, she is brilliant. She hobbles around like she's 90 years old, then outwits every detective she comes across. She has a Foyle-like tendency to put people in their places without so much as losing a hint of the twinkle in her eye. She is awesome. (And also, feature length episodes...Yeah!!!)

So, imagine our surprise when we work our way through the Series to suddenly find ourselves watching a different Jane Marple! Who was this imposter??

Julia McKenzie is who she is. After several seasons, Geraldine McEwan handed over the Marple mantel and ok, after a few episodes of McKenzie as Marple, I'm getting used to her. She's different and slightly less quirky, but she does the job justice and brings her own special charm to the picture.

As it stands now, Kyle and I have practically exhausted the library's holdings of British murder mysteries, which is a crying shame as they are fantastic! I think there may be a few more jewels out there we have yet to discover. At least I hope so.

I don't know what I'll do when I run out of British countrysides, thatched-roof houses, ancient manor houses, British accents, rambling gardens, tea, knitting old ladies, and death in the lanes. I realize that sounds kind of morbid, but it's just the truth. We're hooked and can't get enough!

And for those of you who happen to also love Foyle, supposedly they are going to film another season in 2013. I can't wait!

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  1. We are having "Foyle withdrawal!" Thanks for the other suggestions!