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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > British Telefilm > TV > Inspector Lynley Mysteries Set 5 (WGBH DVD)

Inspector Lynley Mysteries Set 5 (WGBH DVD)


Picture: C+ Sound: B- Extras: D Telefilms: B-



Nathaniel Parker, who plays Detective Inspector Lynley, has one of the most interesting faces in television.   It is at once handsome, sardonic, inquisitive, decisive and, at times, even feral.


And did I mention handsome?


Inspector Lynley Mysteries 5, based on characters created by Elizabeth George, opens with the intrepid Inspector sitting out a suspension, anxiously waiting the results of his disciplinary hearing for threatening to throw a suspect off a roof.  His partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, is assigned a new boss, Detective Inspector Fiona Knight, in "Natural Causes," the first of 4 episodes in this box set.


The case is a fairly straight forward one, complicated most by personal issues of Lynley, Havers and the pregnant Fiona Knight.  The plot here is in thrall to the characters and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Believability is stretched a tad with Lynley horning in on a case that is not his concerning mob bosses and the mysterious drowning death of a local woman, Edie Covington.  Havers is put in the unenviable position of answering to two bosses at once and, as she is often prone to do, comes out the most sympathetic of all the protagonists, including Lynley himself.  The suspended Inspector tentatively patches things up with his estranged wife, planting a seed for further development in coming episodes. Lynley is reinstated in his job and reconciled with his wife and all seems well.  Could things be better?


Cue storm clouds here.


"One Guilty Deed," the second episode of the box set, finds everyone settled back to their traditional roles as Lynley and Havers investigate a crime boss in the town where Havers went on holiday during her childhood. Two seemingly disparate crimes dovetail together in a once again less than credible fashion and, yet again, character development trumps the plot to create an interesting, intriguing episode.  The skein comes undone in an almost Arthur Conan Doyle fashion; it is as enjoyable as it is improbable, with the viewer forgiving the misdirection in exact proportion to the amount of time not spent thinking about it afterward.


Even more improbable is episode three, "Chinese Walls."  This case centers on a live internet porn site and the murder of a barrister who is moonlighting for her sister's online enterprise.   There is an unnecessary CSI quality about some of the goings on, with enough dead cert suspects to fill an episode of the old Ellery Queen 70's television show and with a commensurate amount of misdirection.   Bait and switch doesn't even begin to describe it.   Still, the relationship of Lynley and his wife, Helen, keeps the interest level high in an on again, off again manner.   One of the dead certs is the cert and, after a trial separation, Lynley and Helen get back together. Again, could things be better?


Can you smell rain in the air?


The final episode, "In the Blink of an Eye," far and away takes best of set, with the plot finally giving character development a run for its money.  The story concerns the death of a photographer whose career has slipped to celebrity sleaze journalism; though not without it's share of improbability, the story has its origins in the Bosnian war of the 1990's and is a tale ultimately of vengeance, with a "shocker" ending that is no less powerful for having been emotionally telegraphed from the season's first episode.


The bottom line here is that the series is always at least mildly interesting, blending suspense with soap opera (see above), albeit of a slightly more upscale kind than on afternoon network TV.  The final, fatal shot in the fourth episode links these elements inextricably together and the cogent viewer realizes s/he is being played like the contrapuntal duet of a minor, if passingly engaging composer.


In August 2007, the BBC made the surprising decision to cancel the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Evidently, two additional episodes have been an aired in Australia but have not aired in Britain or the US. The cancellation is particularly surprising since this is a well acted suspense series with character taking precedence and an inspired pairing of Nathaniel Parker and Sharon Small in the lead roles. Those who value Holmes and Watson and Nero and Archie and will find themselves caught up in relationships as much as plot twists.


And, yes, ultimately that isn't a bad, if occasionally improbable, thing, is it?



- Don Wentworth


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