I enjoyed the new Miss Marple (or MARPLE, as ITV are calling her) last night, but I remain unconvinced by Geraldine McEwan as the woman herself. What I always loved about Miss Marple, in both book and BBC adaptation form, was that she looked like a very fluffy little old lady but really she had a mind like a steel trap. McEwan, on the other hand, has a sort of scary beady-eyed shrewdness that would work well with another character but doesn't, to me, work for Miss Marple. I loved Joan Hickson's Miss Marple because she looked so innocent and wide-eyed and vague, but behind it she was a detecting mastermind and not fluffy at all. When she interviewed suspects, they never took her seriously because she seemed so sweet and vague, whereas McEwan's Marple has a sort of horrid impishness (a quality I loathe - I had a byline photo in my old newspaper in which I wore an expression that could only be described as impish - or possibly puckish - and I hated it so much that I actually cried the first time I saw it. It wasn't just me being paranoid about its hideousness, either - I met someone at a press launch round that time who actually said "God, I didn't recognise you- you look so much nicer than that hideous photo in the paper!"). Anyway! McEwan was almost sinister when she was interrogating people, and was obviously in control all the time, which was much less satisfying than watching a seemingly nice little old lady flummoxing people who made the mistake of underestimating her powers. But I did like the rest of the all-star cast, who were camping it up and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
I'm not sure how I feel about the changing of the ending to make one of the rich old man's children-in-law the female lover of the murderous Josie; in the book (I checked in my copy, because I had a feeling this wasn't the original story) it was the man's son in law who was Josie's lover. While I'm glad to see more lesbian characters on TV, it would (a) better if they weren't murderers and (b) it just seemed rather pointless and tacked on, like a clumsy attempt to "modernise" the story - it didn't add anything to the mystery. Patrick and I were talking about this yesterday before the programme, and he pointed out that when TV or film adaptations offer a "modern take", it usually just means clumsily making subtext text. Which seems to have been the case here.
Although at least they showed the murderers languishing forlornly in the cells afterwards, which Lord knows the books usually don't. I love Dorothy L Sayers not only because she's a genuinely graceful writer (unlike Christie, whose genius was in creating plots, not people or dialogue), but she also takes the consequences of outing murderers seriously. Lord Peter never forgets that when he unearths the criminal, he's sending people to be hanged, and he suffers as a result. He even meets Harriet when she's awaiting trial for murder and fully expects to be hung for it. In Christie's world, the murderer vanishes from the detective's mind as soon as their guilt is proven and they've been captured by the police. In Sayers's, the detective has to come to terms with the results of his work.
And also, Lord Peter is much hotter than Poirot. I'm just saying.