Dalgliesh by Jill Robertson

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Artistically filmed. Clever mysteries. Splendid acting. What’s not to like in the newly released ACORN TV show Dalgliesh? Bertie Carvel plays the “inscrutable” detective well. His gaze roils with intensity. 

DCI Adam Dalgliesh rises from the ink of famous mystery writer P.D. James. Dalgliesh appeared in her first novel, published in 1962, and, through 2008, starred in 13 more. He’s melancholy and emotionally smart and even handsome—in a 1970s way. He kneels, listens, stares all the while dressed to the nines in a ’70s cut suit—a “timeless classic,” says the special feature. His car is comparable too. It’s a 1971 Jaguar E-Type FHC Series III. 

His complex soul rests in the wonderful fact that he’s a well-known poet. His witnesses are more apt to know and appreciate his literary side while his co-workers, especially DS Charles Masterson, might not have cracked a book. Ever. (Jeremy Irvine from War Horse plays this foil well.)

Sadly, Dalgleish’s wife and infant have died. He sees flashes of beautiful eyes and a dark-haired woman near a boat. An antagonist berates him, “You stink of grief!” However, we viewers are let gently and incrementally into this grief-stricken soul. I found him fascinating. 

TV depictions of this famous sleuth started in 1983 and launched the British poet-detective to international fame. Roy Marsden and later Martin Shaw played the early roles. Radio programs also have showcased Dalgliesh mysteries. Plots include murder mysteries housed in manors to cathedrals. 

Carvel is a busy actor in film, TV, theater, and voice-work. He might be most recognized as Jonathan Strange in the BBC ONE’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2015). In the fifth season of The Crown, he will play Tony Blair. His voice work also includes “Wormwood” for Focus on the Family’s award-winning 2009 Screwtape Letters. 

To create the quality production, director Jill Robertson teamed with scriptwriter Helen Edmundson. The six episodes run two programs per novel. Three novels make up the series: Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower, and A Taste for Death

Filmed in Northern Ireland—the scenic County Down area—there is a hint of more episodes to come. Six were simply too few, I thought. P. D. James was an internationally best-selling mystery writer with 19 books published at her 2014 death. Her last novel was the film-realized Death at Pemberley. Adult themes discussed. No graphic scenes, but with some language. PG-13 estimated rating (ACORN TV).

About the Author

Cynthia Beach is a longtime English professor at Cornerstone University and author of Creative Juices, a book on writing. Her novel, The Surface of Water, will be available in September. She cofounded Breathe Christian Writers Conference and founded Breathe Deeper, A Writing Retreat. Visit her at cynthiabeach.com.

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