DVD Review: Partners In Crime–the wonderful adventures of Tommy and Tuppence are as timely as ever…
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime takes its title from the second book about the adventures of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, uses the novel The Secret Adversary for the plot of the first three episodes, and adapts N or M? for the last three episodes. If you’re unfamiliar with Christie’s work, the miniseries is a diverting and generally entertaining romp about a married couple’s dalliances with spycraft. If you’re a diehard Christie fan and purist, as I am, you may be disheartened by this take on the source material.
To start with the good parts, David Walliams and Jessica Raine are very likeable as the sleuths. Though in their first adventure, The Secret Adversary, the pair were in their early twenties and not yet married, this miniseries opens with them a bit further along in life. They have one son (in the books, they had twins, a boy and a girl), and are in increasingly dire financial straits due to Tommy’s seemingly endless string of failed get-rich-quick schemes. The time is the early Cold War, and the tone of the production mostly succeeds in capturing the “light-hearted thriller” atmosphere. The period costumes and sets are enjoyable to look at, and the supporting cast is mostly very strong.
Yet something’s a bit off with the central relationship. The Beresfords chafe against each other a bit too much, and though they eventually come together as a team, their partnership is often more strained than Christie fans might like. More problematic is the fact that some of Christie’s cleverest and subtlest clues have been expunged. In the novel The Secret Adversary, the observant reader can see beyond Christie’s skillful bit of misdirection regarding a locked-room murder, and the crime can be solved as a fair play mystery. In the book, Tommy actually got to solve the crime through detective skills, but in this adaptation they find the bad guy by almost pure chance.
Likewise, there’s a terrific bluff on the part of one villain in N or M?, but it’s inexplicably been dropped from this adaptation, so some of the best bits of Christie’s mysteries have been hacked away and replaced with rather a lot of running around, either chasing or being chased. The Tommy of the novels was a reluctant hero, and at times Walliams plays that role, but more often than not, this version of Tommy is a blunderer with a lucky streak.
It’s all right for screenwriters to make changes if they make the show work better, but in most of the cases, the alterations strip away the chance for the viewer to play detective, and Christie’s clever puzzling is often replaced with fluff. Yet for all that, the DVD is rather entertaining if you’re not distracted by the deviations from Christie’s original work, though it never comes close to the heights of David Suchet’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple.
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime
$39.99 DVD & Blu-Ray