Reviews & Ratings for
"Agatha Christie's Marple" The Secret of Chimneys (2010)

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41 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

There will be spoilers!

Author: rabyhook from Norway
5 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Rich young things running around in grand English gardens."

So it should be. Instead what have we: "Dear old Miss Marple running around in tunnels in grand English country estates, holding a big torch like a true CSI."

But let me start with the beginning, and not so fast. I love Agatha Christie, I do, and have read most of her books. Not all of these have the quality of "Five little Pigs", "Sad Cypress" (Both very well adapted for television with David Suchet), "Towards Zero", "Murder on the Orient Express", "Then there was None" and "Death comes as the End". But they all are unmistakably works of Agatha Christie, and she never put her main characters in the wrong place. Unlike the people responsible for the new "Marple" production. They are busy being much better at this game than Agatha herself, so they edit and rewrite her stories to put things right, don't they?

Alright, first there was this book, "The Secret of Chimneys". Agatha Christie wrote it in 1924/25, and here she is in Wodehouse territory, sort of. You half expect Bertie Wooster to turn up in the garden in the middle of all the muddle. We have Chimneys, the old country manor, known for its noble and famous guests during the centuries. Chimneys is also the home of the lovable Marquis of Caterham, a witty gentleman who detest politics and pompous politicians, and therefore have a close friend named George Lomax who is a pompous politician, a Foreign Office man. And there's the high spirited young Bundle, the eldest daughter of Lord Caterham, her name is actually Lady Eileen Brent. We have Bill Eversleigh, personal assistant of George Lomax, a cricket and party at the Savoy man. Then there's the beautiful young widow and our heroine, the Honorable Mrs Virginia Revel. Every man of course wants to marry her but she prefer to be the happy widow. Then there's the stranger coming home after years in Africa, the mysterious but well behaved Anthony Cade. There's a rich American, a clever French policeman, a notorious criminal called King Victor, there's the odd Mr. Fish who collects first editions but takes no interest in the books he is shown at Chimneys, a French governess, a dead Prince, a live Baron of the make believe country Herzoslovakia. There's a mysterious gang of Herzoslovakian rebellions. Not to mention a stolen diamond hidden somewhere at Chimneys. Into this scene walks Inspector Battle, the stoic man in the right place. He and only he shall restore order and peace.

The book is really fun nonsense, a good read to cheer you up. It's so playful, so silly that it 's meant to be the playground for these hyperactive young people: Bundle, Bill, Anthony and Virginia.

Then, there's the adaptation for television. How could they? John Strickland and Paul Rutman made it into a Miss Marple story! It's not enough for them to ruin the actual Miss Marple stories, they have to write her into stories that even a child knows is the wrong place for this character. Miss Marple probably never moved in circles as Chimneys anyway. Miss Marple is an old English gentlewoman living in a small village, and don't run around manor gardens and parks with Earls and Princes.

And what did Strickland/Rutman do to the characters from the book:

Lord Caterham. Not a charming, witty man anymore, but a bitter man in grief over his dead wife. And it gets much much worse ...

Bundle. Not a joyful, energetic adventuress anymore, but a bitter grown woman, calling herself an old spinster. A bit of a tomboy. Maybe we here have the unavoidable homosexual in these adaptations.

Virginia Revel. In this mess she is the second daughter of Lord Caterham and Bundle's sister. Why? For no reason other than change, change, change anything Mrs Christie once wrote.

Bill is more or less the man from the book, but since the story is completely changed, everything Bill does is also different.

George Lomax. Such potential from the character Christie created, and all the Strickruts could do with him was make him a whimsical, stiff and boring person.

Anthony Cade. Quite wrong. In the book he is cunning, clever, always two steps ahead, and it comes as no surprise in the end of the book, that he actually is a Prince in disguise and heir to the throne of Herzegovina. In the adaptation he is just a young man in love in a desperate situation, who needs Miss Marple to prove his innocence.

Most of the other characters are missing in the adaptation, and all the fun is gone with them. John Strickland and Paul Rutman finally hit the rock bottom they've been aiming for a long time when they decided to make the lovely Lord Caterham the murderer. Why? For no reason other than change, change, change. It can't be much worse than this. Oh, they can decide to make Miss Marple a man in a woman's body. Why not? Everything Agatha Christie created lacked something to make it really clever, so let's make some changes!

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14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A really dreadful adaptation of what was a good story

Author: imdb-14954 from United Kingdom
11 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Secret of Chimneys" as a novel involves quite a lot of plot lines, but it doesn't involve Miss Marple.

This TV adaptation discards almost all the original plot lines (a tiny, and inconsistent stub of one remains) and puts just formulaic nonsense in their place. Miss Marple is completely out of character - she would *never* have gone to stay at Chimneys - and the whole idea of including her is just silly.

The worst bit of all is a pointless character from "National Heritage" (or is it "The English Trust"?) who is there for no reason at all and just spends her time being unpleasant to people.

The whole thing is the most appalling display of arrogance on the part of the screenwriters. They take what was quite a good story, and failing to realise their own incompetence, "improve" it to the point where nothing good remains and it's just trite rubbish.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

I say, I think you're all being terribly unfair!

Author: TryingOptimist from England
8 May 2012

They chose the wrong novel to adapt. The book was a really light, silly story, but because of the adapting for Television, they had to serious-ise it. And it didn't work very well.

If you look at it unbiased, without any prior knowledge of the book, it's quite decent, if a bit clichéd. Because it was a book with such a strong plot before, everybody is shocked that they dared to change it so much. The costumes etc. are lovely as usual and the acting isn't half bad. Suspense as to who the murderer is is kept right up 'til the end of the solution scene. If you haven't read the book before, watch and you will probably enjoy it, but if you have read the book, don't touch it with a barge pole.

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14 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A must NOT see for Agatha Christie readers

Author: Aziraphale615 from United States
23 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Once again, the producers have royally messed with a decent Agatha Christie novel. Instead of saying "Based on the novel by Agatha Christie," the credits should read "Loosely adapted from the novel by Agatha Christie." One of the previous reviewers covered the plot well enough, so I'll just say that the only similarities between the book and this adaptation are the names of the characters (even their relationships aren't the same) and the name of the home where the story takes place. The writers have written an entirely different plot that is very much NOT an improvement on the Agatha Christie story or her characters AND they throw Miss Marple into it. I gave this two stars rather than 1 because the acting's decent.

Novels and films (and television series) are obviously all very different animals. In the past, when the Christie adaptations were good, the writer(s) would take some small liberties to help elucidate back story, or because they wanted to include Hastings, or Miss Marple's nephew Raymond or some other character they thought would help with the plot. Now the trend seems to be to completely rewrite Christie's plots to appeal to a modern audience. I don't know about you, but part of the reason I enjoy reading Christie and watching the good adaptations (not this dreck)is because I enjoy the time/place-specific plots of the stories. PLEASE STOP MESSING WITH THEM.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Terrific mystery

Author: gridoon2016
4 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This apparently loose adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's relatively obscure novels is one of this TV series' best entries, and one of the few that can rival in intricacy and complexity even the best Hercule Poirot stories. There are lots of little details that are designed to delight mystery fans (the light in the window, the smoke from the chimney, the gunshot, the coded message, the handwriting, 11:45 sharp, etc.) - the script is clearly written by someone who both loves and understands the genre (he also wrote Julia McKenzie's best Season 4 Marple outing, "They Do It With Mirrors"). Everything seems inexplicable at the start, yet (nearly) everything is logically explained by the end. The director achieves some beautiful photographic effects, and the settings are magnificent. This episode also has arguably the best Inspector of the entire series; a man with a fearsome reputation who nonetheless knows all about Miss Marple's own reputation and treats her as a useful equal from the start. It's nice to see Edward Fox in yet another Agatha Christie film (after "The Mirror Crack'd" and "The Hollow"), though my favorite cast member is without a doubt Dervla Kirwan, who radiates intelligence and sophisticated beauty. Unlike the men in the film, I would ask her to marry me and not her sister - I prefer brunettes anyway! *** out of 4.

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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

One of my favourite Christie's ruined

Author: wilmax32 from newcastle
12 May 2012

i quite understand why producers want to crow-bar miss marple into non specific novels, but why take one of the most charming and lovable characters and turn them into the villain?

Chimney's is meant to be a fun run-around of a thriller, but this version doesn't come close to the book. What is the point??? It means i've watched it once and certainly won't be watching it again or buying it.

If they can't convert it while keep some of the plot true to form then just leave it alone.

If you love the books don't waste your time here or you'll definitely be let down on a massive scale

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16 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Jane Sees How the Other Half Perishes

Author: WeatherViolet from United States
20 June 2010

In Julia McKenzie's sixth outing as Agatha Christi amateur sleuth Miss Jane Marple, she visits the country estate of Lord Caterham (Edward Fox), at which guest Count Ludwig von Stainach (Anthony Higgins) expresses an interest in the lovely Lady Virginia Revel (Charlotte Salt), who is also pursued by her intended, Anthony Cade (Jonas Armstrong), plus Bill Eversleigh (Mathew Horne) and George Lomax (Adam Godley), each of whom proposes matrimony.

Other ladies of the manor and guests, Agnes (Laura O'Toole), Treadwell (Michelle Collins), Bundle (Dervla Kirwan), and Miss Blenkinsopp (Ruth Jones), join in the fun until bodies begin to pop up around the lavish estate, maintained by Jaffers (Alex Knight).

Inspector Finch (Stephen Dillane) serves as a bright spot, with his soft-spoken, gentlemanly manner, as he investigates without the benefit of law enforcement officer assistance the body discovered in the basement corridor with a suspect's hovering above it after a blast is heard, causing residents and guests to search the grounds, with Miss Marple at the forefront of the snooping.

During the course of the next evening's dinner, a soup of mushroom and sage is laced with the next murder weapon, a secret ingredient causing the next body to plop, a factor which doesn't initially seem to tie in with the first murder, or are these the second and third homicides at Caterham Manor?

When a suspect or two are arrested, Miss Marple begins to tie together a series of clues leading to the perpetrator, who recalls via flashback scenes an earlier murder, connecting to this recent double homicide, paving the way for Lady Virginia Revel to decide among her suitors, or, should we say, her surviving suitors if any remain innocent of murder, that is?

This adaptation of "The Secret of Chimneys" contains wonderful Cinematography with its excellent location shots plus its flowing camera movements, as well as its effects of creating live action footage from still photography, and its morphing from daytime to night-time seemingly effortlessly although excessive sound effects' noise does irritate the dialogue's pleasant conversational tone at times.

(Extra points for Stephen Dillane in his authoritative yet personable role of Inspector Finch.)

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's better then the reviews here claim.

Author: Paul Evans from Swansea, United Kingdom
6 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I knew after the first minute this was going to be really enjoyable, and it was. Starting a drama with a bit of Strauss (Wiener Bonbons) is never a bad idea, it sets the tone. The worst case of saved on a bicycle whilst wearing an anorak as I have ever seen.

We learn that after a party in 1932, a maid Agnes stole a hugely valuable jewel from one of the guests and then vanished. A diplomatic gathering happens at the old family home of the Caterham family, Chimneys. Honoured Guest and dignitary Count Ludwig is found murdered and Miss Marple sets about unravelling a web of secrets and lies.

It's a deep plot, it's not straightforward like Library or Vicarage, but it at least allows a little intelligence from the viewer. I don't see where some reviewers are coming from when they say they don't understand it, have you seen an episode of Waking the dead? This is deep not complex.

Wonderfully acted as you'd expect, it's very much McKenzie that stands out as the class act of the piece. Edward Fox is as usual very good, he plays the unsympathetic aristocrat very well, he's a commanding actor. Ruth Jones and Dervla Kirwan provide the lighter side. Good to see Michelle Collins cast against type, and playing a more dowdy character, she clearly does sinister very well. Matthew Horne is a little silly at times I thought.

I like the humour in it, mainly coming from the Kirwan/Jones combination. The music as mentioned briefly is superb, you can't beat a Strauss waltz, but the incidental music is lovely too. As a production it looks beautiful, gorgeous settings, great shots, it's a visual treat.

It gets an 8/10, it's not brilliant or flawless, but it's imaginative, beautifully produced, and original, Miss Marple fitted in beautifully to this story, she din't seem contrived.

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10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:


Author: Noircitydame from United States
6 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Though I am a Christie fan, I've enjoyed these Marple adaptations immensely – even those that - gasp - alter Christie's plots or, like The Secret of Chimneys, insert Miss Marple into stories she didn't originally appear in. This being said, I disliked The Secret of Chimneys. I felt it was a jumbled mess, with only the names of the characters and the house, and the fact of an old jewel robbery having taken place there, recognizable from the original source material. Written c.1925, the book is really a delightful romp, a product of its time – the era of flappers and Bright Young Things – and is as much a Post WWI intrigue/adventure story along the lines of The 39 Steps, as it is a mystery. It really doesn't lend itself well to being moved up to the somber Post WWII time period. Add the addition of Miss Marple, and it's really curious why anyone thought it would be a good vehicle for the series. Watching these films with my husband, who is unfamiliar with Christie's works, I'm usually able to help him out when the plot gets complicated – but in this case, it went so far astray I was as lost as he was! Very disappointing. It's a real shame, because if done well, they have a loyal audience for these films, but done badly, even the most tolerant of us will eventually stop watching, and people who want to adapt Christie's works in the future will be told: "No one cares about those stogy old stories. . . " I think keeping the series in one particular time period was a wise move, but I just hope they keep the period authenticity and don't try to "modernize" or "update" them - ugh. I had a slight suspicion with this episode that there was less attention to detail, and perhaps period authenticity was put aside in an attempt to make Virginia (and other female characters) more visually appealing to a 2010 audience. I hope I am wrong. Speaking for myself, that's not what Marple fans are looking for.

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7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Well made with a good cast, but jumbled and convoluted

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
28 December 2010

I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie, both her books and most of the adaptations based on her stories. The stories are clever and complex and the characters are interesting. That said, I was disappointed with The Secret of Chimneys. As far as these Marple adaptations go, it is not as awful as At Bertram's Hotel and Sittaford Mystery which were not only poor adaptations but severely lacking on their own terms too, but it is not the best either, Murder is Announced, Moving Finger and Pocket Full of Rye were surprisingly well done.

Starting with the good things, the adaptation is blessed with lovely production values. I loved the scenery and costumes as well as the photography, while the house itself was amazing. The music was very good too, not just the wonderful Vienesse Waltz that repeated itself but the accompanying music too. The script has its moments, there are some juicy red herrings and nice attempts at humour, while the direction was okay. The cast in general are first rate, Julia MacKenzie is a splendid Miss Marple(despite the fact The Secret of Chimneys is not even a Miss Marple story), shrewd, inquisitive yet very charming, while Stephen Dillaine is excellent. Out of the supporting cast, Edward Fox and the lovely Charlotte Salt come off best, and Anthony Higgins(his deep voice and accent reminded me slightly of Gary Oldman's Dracula) and Michelle Collins are decent.

However, despite these good things, the adaptation suffers from a very jumbled and convoluted plot with plot holes galore. I think it started off fine and intriguing, but it was about halfway through where it started getting complicated and hard to follow. The revelation was to say the least baffling, yes I got the culprit and the motive but some other explanations had me reaching for the rewind button. I also think in an attempt to cram a lot in, the adaptation felt rather rushed, so some parts felt skimmed over and underdeveloped. While the cast were fine in general, one or two members suffered from some moments of bad writing and character development. Anthony Cade was the main one, Jonas Armstrong looked dashing but he came across as bland and perhaps too earnest. I think this was the fault of the writer, turning a clever and cunning yet likable character into a very wimpy and uncharismatic shadow of his former self. Plus is it me or did the early attack on Virginia seem rather forced? The other was George Lomax, Adam Godley tried hard, but Lomax was made way too stiff and dull here. Consequently, the relationships between the two men and Virginia were very unconvincing. Just for the record, I don't mind changes to books, as long as the spirit is maintained. Sadly, the adaptation lacked the playful and witty charm of the book.

So overall, not a complete waste of time but disappointing. Hopefully The Blue Geranium will be an improvement. 5/10 Bethany Cox

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