“People are solving my murders: they’re assuming the culprits to be the most unlikely characters.” That’s Agatha Christie talking to none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as they discuss how to write a murder mystery – while playing golf. If that sentence appeals, then Agatha and the Truth of Murder is the TV movie of your dreams.
The drama, written by Tom Dalton, takes us back to 1926, when the author disappeared for 11 days. Why? And what happened to her? It offers an irresistibly fanciful answer: to solve a crime. To be exact, the murder of Florence Nightingale Shaw, the goddaughter of the famous nurse, who was killed six years previously, but her killer never found. And so Agatha assembles everyone who might be the culprit in a country house and begins her investigation.
It’s an absurdly silly concept, based more on wishful thinking than historical fact – needless to say, it’s not authorised by the Christie estate. But it boasts a cast that includes Tim McInnerny, just to ensure the classic whodunnit vibe is present and correct. And so there’s fun in seeing Agatha attempt to sell her cover story – a researcher carrying out checks of family members before Florence’s will can be sorted and a sizeable fortune dispersed – and humour in the way that it gives us a glimpse of the furore her disappearance caused, from an aerial manhunt to Doyle carrying out a seance.
Most impressive of all is Ruth Bradley, who is excellent as Christie and plays her with a surprising amount depth, as she crafts a portrait of an author whose husband wanted to divorce her, and an artist who, despite major success, was having something of a personal and creative crisis.
Terry Loane (a former second unit director on Game of Thrones) helms it all with a slick enough eye – overhead shots of steam trains are a stylish touch – and the pace moves along at an enjoyable lick. The result is far from The ABC Murders, but it’s an entertainingly daft piece of what-iffery that’s just serious enough to sell its central mystery – golf course or no golf course, you still won’t solve the case before she does.
Agatha & the Truth of Murder is available on My5 until 23rd December 2019.