With his rumpled raincoat, ever-present cigar, bumbling demeanour and Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction, disarmingly polite homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo took on some of the most cunning murderers in Los Angeles, most of whom made one fatal, irrevocable mistake: underestimating his investigative genius.
The show follows a crime, usually adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points. The first half of the show concentrates on the investigation of the crime by the police, the second half follows the prosecution of the crime in court.
Jesse L. Martin,
James Bentley is tried for the murder of Abigail McGinty, the charwoman of Broadhinny who also took in Bentley as her lodger. The evidence is overwhelming, and soon after he is sentenced to hang. Superintendent Spence is not convinced of the man's guilt, and so he visits Poirot, asking him to look into the case. Poirot then heads off to the village, where he becomes the paying guest of Maureen and Major Johnnie Summerhayes. Ariadne Oliver, Poirot's novelist friend, has also come to Broadhinny to collaborate on a stage adaptation of one of her novels with dramatist Robin Upward. With the clue of a bottle of ink purchased by the dead woman shortly before her death, Poirot searches Mrs. McGinty's belongings and finds an edition of The Sunday Comet newspaper, where an article concerning two women connected with famous murders has been cut out. With the story are two photographs of the women. Poirot discovers that Mrs. McGinty had seen one of the photographs before, and knew to whom it ... Written by
James Gordon Bentley, you have been tried for murder. Abigail McGinty was found by the baker on the floor of the sitting-room with extensive wounds to the head. The house in Broadhinny evinced no sign of forced entry. All the police surgeon was able to ascertain was that she'd been hit with a sharp, heavy implement, probably some time the night before. You, Bentley, were suspected from the very beginning. You knew where she kept her money; you had recently lost your employment, and...
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I always look forward to a new Poirot. It's Sunday evening entertainment that you can genuinely get absorbed by.
I think it's always worked because it's so comfortable. Agatha Christie's plots may be distinct to a certain extent and yet they all have some very common motifs. Poirot reliably totters around the same country houses with incompetent but solid police inspectors, gruff majors, femme fatale actresses, little old ladies and untrustworthy artist types.
What made this latest episode so cool was that the director had worked very, very hard to unsettle you. The usual stereotypes were all there, but at the same time there was an air of menace that I haven't seen in a Poirot before. The village of Broadhinny became like a kind of 1950's version of Royston Vasey, shot in sinister angles and film noir lighting.
It might not work if every episode was filmed like this, but this was a very welcome addition to Sunday night. Even if it freaked me out.
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