When a series of apparently minor thefts plagues a university hostelry run by Miss Lemon's sister, Poirot is recruited to investigate. Celia Austin, a pharmacological major, confesses that she is a kleptomaniac and responsible for most of the thefts but denies stealing several objects including a stethoscope, light bulbs, and a student rucksack. Furthermore, she claims to know the other thief and vows to help return the missing items. Unfortunately someone substitutes an overdose of morphine for one of her sleeping powders, and she takes the identity of the thief to the grave. Japp connects the murderer's m.o. with a cold case he had investigated ten years earlier, but the prime suspect in that crime, a powerful statesman, now lies dying in a local hospital. Despite numerous obstacles, Poirot is able to link the killing to an international diamond smuggling ring but not before the murderer claims more victims. Written by
S6E02: Hickory Dickory Dock: Ironically the incidental parts are both fun but also part of weakening the actual mystery
There is a great sense of style to this episode, and I particularly enjoyed the use of the nursery rhyme as incidental music (even if it is a bit heavy at times). Likewise the use of the mouse is quite good, although again it could have been used more sparingly for better effect (did he really need to be at the scene of every murder and in the 'reveal' sequence as well?). So these fun little add-ons I quite liked. One could extend that too, to include the throwaway comedy material about Japp being home alone and with rather simple tastes in food, décor and heating. All of these things I quite liked, but at the same time have to consider if they are not also part of the weakness with this episode too.
The thing is, so far I have not really mentioned the actual story and that is probably because it is not particularly strong. It starts well, with the return of Miss Lemon and a link to a very odd series of minor thefts which is curious and had my interest from the start. Unfortunately the development of the mystery is not particularly well done; partly I think because the episode is so often the episode is more interested in the asides or the manner of delivery rather than the meat and potatoes business of delivering a good narrative in an effective manner (another irony since the joke is made of Japp's much, much simpler tastes which include said foods). The mystery has enough force in the delivery to make it just about work in terms of the structure and style we are used to, but it didn't really hold me as it should have done, and I did think it rush to make up lost ground at the end, mainly so it could tie everything together in the usual final scene.
The cast play with this the best they can, but again the best work seems to be reserved for Suchet and Jackson having comedic moments together. I liked this (despite the knock-on effects) although like the previous episode it did make me miss Hastings, where such interplay complimented the episode rather than distracting from it. Moran's return was nice and seemed more than just a plot device to link to the mystery, while the support cast are mostly interesting and well played (including a young Damien Lewis (although depressing to think of him looking almost as young 20 years later hanging around in Homeland).
There are good aspects to this episode, but it must be said that they do tend to be on the sides and in the main body the narrative/mystery is not well delivered, with too much focus on the style and the supporting comedic material, rather than getting the mystery right and then building off and around this foundation. I enjoyed it for what I liked, but there was a lot here that really wasn't as well done as it needed to be.
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