Monday, 17 May 2010

Lewis: Your Sudden Death Question - review


Your Sudden Death Question, this week’s episode of Lewis, was written by Alan Plater, which is usually a guarantee of high quality writing, and Plater did not let us down, with an entertaining story combining two of my favourite things, a quiz and an elaborate murder mystery.

The idea was that Marcus, played by Alan Davies (yes, Jonathan Creek himself) had organised a bank holiday quiz show, taking place in an Oxford college, in which pairs of contestants played for a £5000 prize. One of those involved, Ethan Croft (Adam James) was a know-all who clearly knew something to the discredit of at least one of his rivals. Needless to say, he soon winds up dead in the college fountain. Soon one of the women to whom he’d taken a shine is murdered as well.

Lewis and Hathaway investigate with their customary determination and unravel a host of connections between the quiz players. This was a very good example of the classic ‘closed circle’ of suspects, in the Agatha Christie style, in a story which updates the whodunit traditions, while remaining pretty true to them in all essentials. You either love this sort of thing, or loathe it, and I must say I love it. I especially liked the grumpy old men played by Timothy West and Nicholas Farrell.

I enjoyed the episode all the more because I didn’t figure out the solution, and because there were so many nice touches in the dialogue. I also liked the development of the relationship between Lewis (Kevin Whately) and the pathologist (Claire Holman.) Hathaway (Laurence Fox), who managed to have his guitar nicked when he attended a music festival, was as agreeably quirky as ever. Great stuff.

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - The closed list of suspects is one of my favorite plot points, too. This story sounds terrific; I'm going to have to try to get hold of that DVD.

BooksPlease said...

I loved it too, definitely in the Christie style. The title did make me chuckle - I'm a bit of a quiz addict! I bet Alan Davies enjoyed being the quiz master for a change (thinking of QI).

'Lewis' is much better now than the first episodes, but maybe I think that because then I was comparing it to 'Morse'. On the other hand it does seem as though Lewis, the character has grown and he is more sure of himself in his job. But is he morphing into Morse - he even likes opera now? I hope his relationship with Dr Hobson develops in future episodes.

Janet O'Kane said...

I agree with your comments and enjoyed this episode. But I have one observation: the solution was reached with information which the viewer didn't have and couldn't have guessed. So I was left feeling a wee bit cheated. I prefer mysteries which, when they're revealed, have me saying 'I should have worked that out'.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do love Lewis. We have new episodes slated for this summer here and I look forward to them eagerly.

There is also some new Miss Marple's coming as well, but I was beyond irritated at how they mangled the stories last season. Nothing remained of Agatha Christie but the character names. Canon Pennyfather was now a nazi. Scheesh.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, I promise you will not be disappointed by the recent episodes: top notch!

Martin Edwards said...

Books Please, you make a very good point. It has developed splendidly, but I agree there are now Morse like traits in Lewis himself. And Dr Hobson would be a good choice, I think!

Martin Edwards said...

Janet, your point is a fair one, and I must admit there were a lack of clues. Even Christie herself did this sometimes, eg in Appointment with Death. I agree it's best if the reader/watcher has the relevant info, and this is how I try to write my own mysteries.

Martin Edwards said...

Pamela, much as I love the Miss Marple books, I have to agree with you about the recent tv versions, which are patchy.

Uriah Robinson said...

Unfortunately I have only watched one Lewis with a ridiculous rehashed plot about a 1960s pop group, but I may watch again if they are getting better and Lewis is in to opera!

Martin Edwards said...

Uriah, I think any mystery featuring pop stars is generally to be avoided. Ruth Rendell is among those to have tried it, with little success. The recent episodes have been complex and entertaining.
Sorry, incidentally, that our paths won't be crossing at Crimefest this year. Hope to catch up with you in person another time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm hoping we're going to get new episodes of "Lewis" on our PBS stations here soon!

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Dorte H said...

The closed circle is a fine plot idea, but it is not everybody who can pull it off. With the episodes we have seen of the new Lewis series I can imagine it must be excellent, though.

Gareth Davies said...

Hathaway said during the episode that he couldn't read Russian. In that case, how could he have known the title of the Russian copy of 'The Cherry Orchard' found on the dead man's bedside table?

Josephine Bacon said...

Gareth Davies is quite right to notice that plot inconsistency, but what was much, much worse was the way that the highly skilled professions of translator and (simultaneous) interpreter were depicted in this episode. Both were depicted as some kind of part-time job or even a hobby, and one for which no special education was required. The author was also under the misapprehension that studying languages at university is enough to make you into a translator/interpreter at top-level conferences requiring specialist technical vocabulary (as in the case of architecture and engineering). Nothing could be further from the truth. As a professional translator/interpreter I was horrified by this sloppy writing. I fully intend to take it up with Alan Plater and producers. And don't let them waffle on about "dramatic license" this is a liberty too far with my highly skilled and specialist profession.

Martin Edwards said...

Gareth, I missed that one - good question.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Josephine, welcome to the blog. Interesting point about authenticity, which I shall address in a separate post. Thanks very much.