What if the wildly popular Downton Abbey were a mystery series that took place mostly in the upstairs portion? Or maybe … what if Bertie Woosterwere smarter and he and his man Jeeves solved crimes? And what if they drank as much as the guys on Mad Men? Well, you’d have this: The Lord Peter Whimsey Mysteries. Based on novels written by Dorothy L. Sayers in the 1920s, these programs feature Lord Peter Whimsey, a forty-ish bachelor who lives a devil-may-care existence, and his man Bunter. (My sister-in-law has cats named Jeeves and Bunter… I knew where “Jeeves” came from… now I know where “Bunter” got his name!)
In the Acorn Media set of DVDs of the Complete Series (made by the BBC and aired on Masterpiece Theatre), you get five different mysteries, fabulously detailed, and fashionably solved. The first whodunit, Clouds of Witness, is a twisty-turny story with many, many clues and gratuitous red herrings – taking place in Whimsey’s noble family’s country house, bachelor flats in Paris, and House of Cartier. There were also court scenes and mistresses and engagements of convenience, crazy recluse farmers, runaway wives and landlords who need to be bribed…
I enjoyed watching the mystery unfold in these exotic – to me – locales, but mostly, I enjoyed the characters with their upper crust way of doing things and their brisk, breezy “what ho” manner of talking… although, apparently people of that station of life were not averse to saying, “ain’t.” Was it their slang? I guess I should read the books to see what THAT’s all about!
The subsequent episodes in this set include The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Murder Must Advertise, Five Red Herrings, and The Nine Tailors. Each mystery unfolds gradually, with equal complexity, as Whimsy – deftly played by Ian Carmichael – and his man Bunter inquire, using their keen intelligence, great style and the “latest” investigative techniques and equipment.
The length of each storyline allows for maximum appreciation of the complexity of the stories and the characters and their unique circumstances and dilemmas. The stories aren’t flashy, straightforward and quickly cracked; instead, you get more of a bedtime read of a tale – a murder you can really sink your teeth into, so to speak. If you like Brit mysteries, the details of Lord Peter Whimsey and Bunter’s mellow exploits will hold your attention marvelously.
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