I’ve watched another in the 1982 TV series of Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick as Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. This story was The Unbreakable Alibi, and really it is a skit on the work of Freeman Wills Crofts, the alibi king, whose patient cop Inspector French tirelessly unravelled the most complex alibis. You tend to wonder why criminals in the French era bothered with such elaborate plans when the great man had his train timetable ready to consult at every opportunity.
The story was light but agreeable, with a bit more substance in terms of plot than some of the others I’ve seen in this series. As ever, Annis’ vivacious performance keeps it all going pretty well.
It did make me wonder about the emphasis that crime writers place on alibis. The high water mark was surely in the Golden Age, when Crofts was at his peak, in the 20s and 30s. Writers did rather depend on the trains running to time. After J.J. Connington wrote The Two Tickets Puzzle, Dorothy L. Sayers doffed her cap to him and his book when elaborating upon his idea a year or so later in Five Red Herrings.
Today, alibis still play a part in a good many books - although the same tends not to be true of train timetables! Alibis crop up occasionally in my own work, but I haven’t tended to devote a lot of space to them, preferring to concentrate on other ‘techniques of misdirection’ when putting together a whodunit-style plot. But one of these days, perhaps, I’ll try to create an ‘unbreakable’ alibi for one of my own culprits....