While on vacation at a resort hotel in the West Indies, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.
A friend of Miss Marple's sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. When police cannot find a body and doubt the story, Miss Marple enlists professional housekeeper, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to go undercover.
An American movie actress, best known for playing dumb blondes, is Scotland Yard's prime suspect when her husband, Lord Edgware, is murdered. The great detective, Hercule Poirot, digs deeper into the case.
Jessica Fletcher discovers a shocking old family secret leading her on a journey to the deep South to bring to light the mysterious details surrounding the death of a slave owned by one of her long-dead ancestors in the mid-1800s. Written by
These 80-minute versions of Murder She Wrote do manage to bring out the best in the scriptwriters - a chance to breathe a bit deeper than usual.
In Virginia, Jessica discovers a family link with a young black woman historian Cassandra, whose ancestor Sam was a slave owned by Jessica's ancestor Sarah. I immediately hoped they'd go into flashback, with Jessica in costume, and I wasn't disappointed.
The scene is a big farmhouse wedding in 1860, the eve of civil war, where a hopeful observer says "Let's hope that this whole thing can be resolved without bloodshed" - a statement that would turn out deeply ironic. Sarah is in favour of paying Sam for some of his duties, but this heightens the divisions between the abolitionists and the slave-power. When the bridegroom is shot dead, Sam is the immediate suspect, and Sarah demands that he should be given a fair trial. But Sam urges her not to waste her time trying to fight for truth and justice. And sure enough, the local farmers hunt him down like a dog.
Back in the present day, Jessica and Cassandra find themselves arguing with the curator of a historical museum, who believes in 'truth' or preserving the Southern cultural heritage - a slightly ambiguous agenda. When Cassandra finds her car booby-trapped outside the museum, history seems to be repeating itself. The underground railroad (the safe-house network where slaves were smuggled to freedom) turns out to be a big part of the story - as revealed by a 100-year old woman who can remember it. The dates may not quite fit, but it doesn't hurt the story too much.
Sam is played magnificently by Michael Jace, deeply convincing as the long-suffering slave with the noble character who can rise above his captive status. So it was doubly shocking, just the other week, to see him jailed for 40 years for murdering his wife.
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