In 1994, Patrick Malahide followed the excellent “Death in a White Tie” with “Hand In Glove“, episode two of the “Inspector Alleyn Mysteries” second series. This episode finds Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn juggling forged paintings (Troys, of course – I don’t think there are any other painters in the Ngaio Marsh universe), a stolen cigarette case (not the same one as in “White Tie”, mind you), eccentric aristocratic families (featuring some distinguished British acting talent), a cougar, and… a Pekinese dog. Oh, and Troy’s own attempts to play Junior Detective, which get her embroiled into a lot more than she bargained for. However does Alleyn get it all sorted out?
All About the Troys
The action opens with a raid on La Hacienda Club. Much like the Matador Club in “White Tie”, it seems that Spanish-themed nightclubs in late Forties London are a byword for dens of iniquity. That said, neither of them is anywhere near as sleazy as SkinSkapes, although the Hacienda Club does have a fan dancer. But I digress. Inspector Fox (William Simons) is there to investigate a series of knifings and other mayhem, but much to his surprise, D.C. Robinson (Sandy Welch) calls his attention to a stack of paintings leaning against a wall. It’s a sign of Fox’s close relationship with Alleyn that he instantly recognizes the paintings as being by Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang), well-known and celebrated painter and (coincidentally enough) Alleyn’s sweetie. But why would a bunch of fine art paintings be stashed at a seedy nightclub?
The Idle Aristocracy
We’re forced to wait in suspense for an explanation as the action shifts to morning at a fine manor. Cook Mrs. Mitchell (Patsy Byrne, better known to me as Nursie from “Blackadder II“) and butler Mr. Belt (Derek Benfield) are preparing breakfast for their well-to-do employer, Mr. Percival Pyke Period (pronounced “Perry-odd”, and played by John Gielgud) of the Ribblethorpe Pyke Periods. He’s known as “P.P.” to his friends. Yes, I found this hilarious, but sometimes I am twelve. P.P.’s main occupations in life are writing letters of condolence to his bereaved friends and putting up with aggravation from nearby sewer construction and his roommate/boarder Harold Cartell (Geoffrey Palmer), as well as Cartell’s equally aggravating (and noisy) dog, Pixie. Putting up with Cartell also means putting up with his sister, awkward and socially inept Connie (Barbara Jefford), who is – there’s no other way to put it – a Crazy Dog Lady with a Pekinese named Lychee. All the dog stuff does actually have a bearing on the later action. In the meantime, it seems that the below-stairs staff can’t stand Cartell, Connie Cartell, or Connie’s special friend Mary “Moppet” Ralston (Jayne Ashbourne) or Moppet’s boyfriend, Leonard Leiss (Matthew Morgan).
We’re also introduced to Troy’s BFF, Nicola Maitland-Mayne (Debra Beaumont) who’s just gotten a job working as P.P.’s secretary, conveniently arranged by Cartell’s stepson, Lieutenant Andrew Bantling (John Holz). Nicola is such a good friend of Troy’s (even though we’ve never heard of her before and never will again) that she has her own Troy portrait (which is – dare I say it – a lot better than Troy’s sketch of Alleyn), which Bantling admires. He’s an aspiring painter himself, although his mean stepfather won’t allow him to resign his army commission and assume control of his trust funds in order to start up his own gallery. Bantling takes Nicola to meet P.P., who has decided to write a book on etiquette when he isn’t busy composing letters of condolence.
Troy Wanted: Dead or Alive
Back at the Hacienda Club, Alleyn has arrived to get a look at the paintings and he’s shocked by how good they are. He brings in Troy to confirm they aren’t hers and she’s even more shocked, calling them “uncanny”. “How did you know they weren’t mine?” she asks (apparently she’s so prolific that Alleyn might not have seen some of her works) and he answers, “The signatures. Every one, identical. Yours are all over the place.” He’s such an observant fellow! Although when Troy comments that it would be “far less risky and far more profitable to forge the works of a dead artist”, he agrees, rather ominously, “That had occurred to me.” Um… way to be reassuring, Rory.
Troy’s natural first inclination is to be as involved with the investigation as she can, since her work is so closely concerned. But Alleyn, of course, won’t hear of it and packs her into a cab after extracting a promise that she won’t try to “help”. Troy insists that he tell her as soon as he finds out anything and he touches his homburg in reply – which is neither a “yes” nor “no”, although he does look extremely attractive doing it. Troy doesn’t seem too satisfied with his answer, but she doesn’t argue – yet.
Back at Ribblethorpe Manor, Nicola gets to meet the rest of the Cartells, Dodds, and Bantlings, and experience some dysfunctional family dynamics. No one likes Connie’s “adopted niece”, Moppet, except for Connie, who adores her unconditionally even though she’s on her way to being a “fallen woman”. No one likes Moppet’s boyfriend Leiss either, who introduces himself to Nicola as “L-E-I-S-S. Rhymes with spice but twice as nice,” which gives you an idea of how insufferable he is. Bantling’s mother Desirée (Moira Redmond), who really likes her tipple, used to be married to Cartell but is now Mrs. Bimbo Dodds (Terence Wilton) – third time’s the charm! And poor Nicola is invited to a game of “Treasure Hunt” along with everyone else at the Dodds’ that evening. What could possibly go wrong?
Tracing a Forger
Meanwhile, Alleyn’s hot on the trail of the Troy painting forger. He’s called in his fine arts grass, Cyril Short (Bill Wallis) for an expert opinion. Cyril’s reluctant to say anything at first, but once he realizes Alleyn’s not interested in incarcerating him – and he gets Alleyn to fork over five guineas – his memory improves. He tells Alleyn that he heard of an Agatha Troy self-portrait for sale at Hugo de Moncrieff’s gallery. The painting looked genuine but the seller seemed shady, so he advised Moncrieff to verify the painting with Troy: “One has that advantage with a living artist.” Cyril doesn’t know if Moncrieff validated the painting, but he does know that it sold the previous week.
Alleyn’s next stop is the swanky Gallery Moncrieff, where he looks like any other incredibly well-dressed (seriously, beautiful double-breasted suit and very flattering!), affluent customer. He jumps right in, telling Moncrieff (Brian Poyser) that he has it on “good authority” that Moncrieff sold an Agatha Troy self-portrait that Alleyn believes was a forgery. Moncrieff laughs at the idea, which seems to bug Alleyn a bit; he’s not used to being scoffed at. He starts off polite and even genial: “I’d like to know where you bought it…” and finishes off a little more sternly and forcefully: “…and who you sold it to”, plainly expecting to get a direct answer.
Unfortunately for Alleyn, Moncrieff is a little better versed in his rights than most other crims because he proceeds to tell Alleyn off, which doesn’t happen very often. “In the first place, Gallery Moncrieff does not deal in forgeries. In the second, the identities of our clients and customers are not a matter for the public record,” he says. He also points out that “it’s obvious [Alleyn] has no warrant” (which wouldn’t stop Chisholm for a red-hot second) and furthermore, that he should direct any queries to Moncrieff’s solicitor (who will probably turn out to be a “Limbo” Ridley type). “I’ll take that as a no, shall I?” replies Alleyn, with uncharacteristic meekness. Fearless Admin suggests (and I agree) that if Chisholm had been there, he’d at least have “accidentally” poked a finger through a canvas while unceremoniously tossing the place. Warrant? Who needs a warrant?
Luncheon, Cigarette Cases, and Dogs, Oh My!
At Ribblethorpe, things are in a tizzy because P.P.’s antique gold cigarette case (cigarette cases again!) has gone missing after luncheon. P.P. accuses Cartell, who accuses Mr. Belt (thus earning him the eternal enmity of below-stairs), while Mr. Belt says that he last saw it in Leiss’ and Moppet’s possession. Leiss is certainly the type to swipe a valuable cigarette case if he got the opportunity, so Cartell marches over to Connie’s house, Chalfont, to confront them, with Pixie in tow. He accuses Leiss and Moppet (both of whom are in jammies in the middle of the day, so we know they’re ne’er-do-wells) of the theft and threatens to call the police if the case isn’t returned, although they both (unconvincingly) deny having had anything to do with it. Then Connie returns and in the to-do of dogs barking at each other, gets bitten on the thumb by her overexcited Peke (yes, this is a plot point).
A Slight Difference of Opinion
On the art forgery side of things, Alleyn goes to Troy’s flat to give her an update and she is not at all pleased with his investigative technique. While Alleyn fidgets uncomfortably (unusual for him), Troy castigates him for asking Moncrieff flat-out about the forgeries: “Of course he wouldn’t tell you! No art dealer in his right mind would tell a policeman! Let it be known that he had anything to do with art forgeries?? The publicity would ruin his business overnight!” She then (understandably) asks which gallery it is and a miffed Alleyn replies in wounded tones, “I’m not going to tell you.” This is not a good answer. Troy angrily rejoins that she has “more than a casual interest” in this because her “reputation is at stake”, then suddenly beats on the back of a chair with an “Oooooohhh!!” of frustration, which startles Alleyn quite a bit. I think it’s their first real spat!
But then Troy reveals what her actual fear is. It’s not just that the forger has copied her style, but that he (or she) has “got inside [her] head”, as she confesses to Alleyn, miserably. Alleyn seems a little surprised by how deeply this has affected her but he tries to be reassuring, saying, “Are they really that good? Then we’ll catch them.” He re-emphasizes that Troy should “leave this to [him]”, but just like Alleyn touching his hat outside the club, Troy doesn’t say either “yes” or “no” – so we know that of course she’s going to have a go at investigating it herself.
A Treasure Hunt and Murder
Back at Chalfont, Connie is helping Moppet take a bath to get ready for the treasure hunt party, actually scrubbing her back – and yes, it’s as creepy as it sounds. We learn a little of Moppet’s background; mainly, that she’s been in trouble with the police before (for unspecified reasons) and that Leiss comes from an “unhappy background” from which Moppet is determined to save him with “love and understanding”. Yeah, that always turns out well. Connie seems possessive of Moppet and opposed to her relationship with Leiss (more creepiness), but she relinquishes her objections when Moppet starts to (fake) cry and says she’d be deprived of happiness without him. Connie dotes on her too much (far too much) to refuse her anything. But the Bimbo Dodds’ treasure hunt seems to go off without a hitch, with guests in party clothes rushing about and finding clues, although there’s an ominous parting shot of the unfinished sewer ditch outside Ribblethorpe. What can it mean??
The next day, Connie receives one of P.P.’s letters of condolence – for the death of her brother, who as far as she knows should still be alive. She rushes over to Ribblethorpe to find out what’s going on. At first it seems that Cartell is just sleeping late, but then Belt brings the bad news that the workmen have found him in the sewer ditch, dead. And of course there’s a whole houseful of suspects from the treasure hunt.
A Bad Case of “Sewer-cide” (sorry…)
Alleyn, suavely sharp-dressed as usual, arrives on the scene to investigate. Robinson tells him that Cartell was found face-down in the ditch with his skull crushed by a sewer pipe that landed on top of him. Alleyn takes a look at the body and instantly spots a couple of clues: an odd-looking mark across one of Cartell’s palms, and a fistful of mud clutched in his other hand. Forensics specialist D.S. Bailey (Tim Dutton) also notes that the planks covering the sewer ditch had been moved and the warning lights turned down, indicating that there’s no way Cartell fell into the ditch by accident. Alleyn also discovers the metal implement used to lever the pipe onto Cartell – and in the process, gets his own fingerprints all over it, but I guess you’re allowed to do that when you’re a Chief Inspector. He correctly surmises that the mark on Cartell’s palm was from a dog leash, which puts him outside at 1:00 am, and then finds one of the treasure hunt clues, which tells him why there’s such a profusion of footprints all over his crime scene.
Hobnobbing with the Nobs
Alleyn and the ever-faithful Fox then go to Ribblethorpe to question its inhabitants. There’s a subtly hilarious scene where Belt takes Alleyn’s homburg to hang up but pointedly leaves Fox’s fedora in his hand – apparently some of P.P.’s snobbery about “breeding” and aristocratic families has rubbed off on his servants. Fox hangs up his own fedora in disgust while Alleyn takes note of the entire thing. Alleyn talks to P.P., who confirms that Cartell went out at around 1:00 am to walk Pixie, but states that there were no disturbances after that. P.P. also complains about his missing cigarette case – luckily, Alleyn has his and can offer him a ciggie. Meanwhile, Fox is working his usual magic below stairs, complimenting
Nursie Mrs. Mitchell on her soda scones and gleaning that none of the help were overly fond of Cartell, with Belt even threatening to quit over his continued presence.
Alleyn continues to gather information. P.P. tries to characterize Cartell’s murder as a prank gone wrong with the sewer pipe being “dislodged inadvertently” by someone who didn’t know he was in the ditch, but Alleyn’s having none of it. He knows that wouldn’t have been possible with an 800 pound pipe. He’s then called away by Bailey, while P.P. waits a tad nervously. Alleyn comes back with yet another clue that Bailey just discovered in the mud near where Cartell’s body lay – P.P.’s antique gold cigarette case. P.P. then conveniently reveals that the last people to have their hands on the cigarette case were Leiss and Moppet, who never returned it after supposedly admiring its inscription. But P.P. and Alleyn’s conversation is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Bantling and Nicola, the latter a wee bit shocked to find her BFF Troy’s not-quite-yet-fiancé there. Maybe she didn’t notice all the police cars out front?
More Suspects Appear
After gently teasing Nicola about her new boyfriend (whom Alleyn spots right away as a painter, the same way Nicola did – by a bit of cadmium yellow under his fingernail), Alleyn questions them both about their movements on the night of Cartell’s death. They decided to skip out of the treasure hunt in favour of parking and canoodling in Green Lane, giving them the perfect vantage point to see two potential suspects show up: first, Bantling’s mother Desirée, issuing a rather tipsy threat to Cartell over his unwillingness to give Bantling his trust fund; and second, Leiss and Moppet, who seem to do something to the planks over the ditch (it’s not clear what) and then leave, conveniently flashing the gold cigarette case as they do so.
Meanwhile, Fox has uncovered Leiss’ distinctly unsavoury background: previous petty larcenies and convictions for theft and fraud, a dishonourable discharge from the army, forged job references, and liking to move in “circles above his station. You know, sir; your lot,” which makes Alleyn wince a bit. They then proceed to question Connie at Chalfont. She regales them with the details of her Peke Lychee’s well-being, especially after that nasty Pixie showed up and was so unsettling. She coos, “They’re very highly strung animals, Pekes. The poor baby’s still upset, aren’t you, poppet? Yes,” while Alleyn favours Fox with a perfect “what the…??” look. Book Alleyn is more of a cat person, so maybe that explains it. 😉
Connie does provide a couple of key pieces of information, though. During one of P.P.’s interminable lectures about background and breeding requiring centuries for perfection, Cartell casually mentions that he’s heard of it being “effected in less than no time” by a man who forged his own name into a parish registry to claim aristocratic ancestry, although he won’t say who it was. Connie also denies that Moppet or Leiss could’ve had anything to do with the cigarette case’s disappearance, because P.P. is “such an old muddle-head” that he probably lost it himself. Unlike her, P.P. is “out of touch with the young” (which is a little mind-bending when you really think about it – Connie is the antithesis of “in touch” with anything, except her Peke). However, she’s visibly upset to receive a condolence letter from P.P. while Alleyn’s there, which turns out to be identical to the one he sent before anyone knew that Cartell was dead.
Troy is On the Case!
In the meantime, Troy has heeded Alleyn’s advice and is patiently waiting for him to resume investigating the forged paintings. No, of course she isn’t!! She’s embarked on her own investigation! She starts by tracking down Cyril (who apparently is the only fine arts grass in London) and, for the lofty sum of five pounds, gets him to spill the beans on which gallery sold her forged self-portrait. She then shows up at the Gallery Moncrieff and proceeds to be bad for business, convincing an American customer who’s just on the point of buying something expensive that he’s so lucky he found an authentic painting, because of course the Gallery Moncrieff would never deal in forgeries! The customer rethinks his purchase and departs post-haste without buying anything, while Moncrieff grudgingly reveals the forgery seller’s address just so that Troy won’t visit his shop any more. See, now there’s an investigative technique Chisholm would be proud of. Moncrieff also warns Troy to “be careful”, but she takes little notice of that.
Investigating Moppet and Leiss
Back at Chalfont, Alleyn goes upstairs to roust Leiss and Moppet while Connie’s distracted with taking her dog out. Leiss is still in bed even though it’s the middle of the afternoon (ne’er-do-well, remember) and isn’t at all happy to be greeted by Alleyn: “Who the hell are you?” “Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep. Detective Chief Inspector Alleyn, Scotland Yard,” Alleyn replies, flashing his ID. [Spoiler! He’s not really sorry. 😉 ] He asks Leiss about the cigarette case again and Leiss disavows all knowledge, saying he left it on a table in the house and inviting Alleyn – okay, more like daring Alleyn – to search him, the room, or Moppet (who chooses that moment to appear in a skimpy negligée). Alleyn tells them that the cigarette case has actually been found, “[e]xactly where you dropped it, I should think. In the open sewer, a few inches from Mr. Cartell’s body,” thus upping the stakes to a potential murder charge.
Leiss and Moppet seem shocked that Cartell’s been murdered, but Leiss still belligerently denies having anything to do with it. Alleyn asks if the invitation to search still holds and proceeds to toss their wardrobe. He finds a couple of potentially interesting items: stained gloves, tobacco crumbs in Leiss’ overcoat pocket, and a membership card to that den of iniquity, the Hacienda Club. Alleyn seizes the clothes and, when Moppet sneers that he’s going to “valet” Leiss, mockingly replies that he’s just going to “borrow” them for a little while (very rare for Alleyn to use a mocking tone!). When Leiss complains that it isn’t “convenient”, Alleyn impatiently rolls his eyes and asks if it would be “more convenient” for him to sit on the bed and wait for a warrant. See, that’s how Chisholm would do it! Apparently he learned from his art gallery experience.
Leiss grudgingly tells Alleyn to take the clothes, and Alleyn insists on having a private word with Moppet in the hallway. He turns up the pressure on her, saying that he should be able to pin possession of the cigarette case on either her or Leiss, thus making them the best suspects for Cartell’s murder. Then Fox strongarms Moppet a bit, saying that the penalties for withholding evidence are severe. Moppet begins to sound less confident and more worried but just as she’s about to crack, Leiss opens the door and rescues her, saying, “The young lady’s got nothing to say to you, Alleyn. If you’re looking for clues, here’s one. If you don’t know what to do, think it over in the loo. Heh heh heh!” Clearly a man of devastating wit. On their way back with the evidence, Fox expresses dismay at “the young lady being led astray in such a manner”, and Alleyn quotes a bit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 in reply: “‘The lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.'” Ever the realist, Fox observes, “I’m not sure that that young lady didn’t start off as a weed and fester from there, sir.”
Back at Ribblethorpe, P.P. clears up the duplicate condolence letters by reluctantly admitting that he just uses the same one over and over (which gobsmacks Alleyn) and probably sent the wrong one to Connie when letters and envelopes got mixed up. However, he refuses to say to whom the other letter was written (obviously someone else with a dead brother) or what his original letter to Connie was about. But Alleyn does discover another interesting snippet of information: P.P. is a twin, becoming the sole Pyke Period heir when his sister died in infancy.
A Narrow Escape from the One Desired
Alleyn’s next stop is to question Desirée Bantling-Cartell-Dodds, with whom he appears to have some prior history. “RORY!!” she crows exuberantly upon setting eyes on him. She comments that she wasn’t sure if it was he or his brother who would go on to become a policeman – she really has known him for a long while. She then insists upon feeding him lunch, eyeing him up and down speculatively while saying, “You are far too thin. Let’s get some flesh on these bones,” and taking his arm with a distinctly proprietary air. Cougar alert!! Alleyn doesn’t look too worried, so perhaps this happens to him all the time. Actually, in the Marsh novels it does happen to him all the time.
Over lunch, Alleyn notices another of P.P.’s letters on the desk and, after confirming that Desirée’s brother died recently, realizes that she was the unintended recipient of Connie’s letter. Desirée doesn’t understand the letter’s contents, in which P.P. seems to be protesting the authenticity of his aristocratic ancestry, because it doesn’t refer to any conversation they had. Alleyn asks if he can keep the letter but refuses to tell her why; “You can ask, but I shan’t tell you,” he says, with a smile and a flash of lethal dimples. Unfortunately, this is like waving a red flag to a… cougar (who’s old enough to be his mother). Desirée grabs Alleyn’s lapel and slowly drags him forward, seductively sliding the letter into his inside jacket pocket while locking eyes with him. “Did I ever succeed in seducing you?” she purrs, and Alleyn replies, with an enigmatic smile (amusement? a complete lack of surprise? utter self-assurance? all of the above?), “No.” Cougar attack averted!
That over with, Alleyn sits back and resumes questioning as if nothing happened. Apparently P.P. was upset about something during the treasure hunt that had to do with Cartell, but refused to tell Desirée what it was. And Cartell was also refusing to let Bantling have his trust fund to open an art gallery, although Bimbo was in favour of it – but Bimbo’s financial judgement is a bit suspect, as Alleyn tells Desirée that he’s an “undischarged bankrupt”, much to her surprise. Oops! For his part, Bimbo tells Alleyn he overheard Leiss telling Moppet that Cartell had been “taken care of, for good” while they would be “in the clear”. It’s looking worse and worse for Leiss and Moppet! Or perhaps worse for P.P., since he calls up Desirée while Alleyn’s there, very angry with her for still having his “funny letter” (Desirée’s description) and telling her to destroy it.
Relationship Issues and Pantomime Horses
Meanwhile, Troy has managed to get her hands on one of the forgeries (not quite sure how she did that) and is examining it closely with Nicola. “Good, isn’t it?” says Nicola and Troy replies, “Hideously good. And dear Rory, optimistic as ever, is convinced they’re going to bump me off at any moment to increase the value of my work.” Nicola asks if Alleyn has any idea that Troy’s investigating the forgeries, and Troy’s answer is an intriguing peek into their relationship dynamics:
“Heavens no, he told me to stay out of it completely. […] He’ll say I’m stubborn and pig-headed, I know. But it isn’t that. Somehow doing what I was told would seem like submitting to his will. I suppose I’m terrified of losing my independence. I’m afraid of us becoming a couple. Becoming ‘us’ rather than ‘he and I’. I don’t know. I’m probably falling in love. Perhaps I’m just too selfish. But I can’t help it! If I close my eyes and think ‘couple’, I picture a pantomime horse.”
Nicola’s reply is the best possible: “Which end are you?” But it’s an interesting insight into why Troy is holding back from commitment to Alleyn and, in my opinion, a lot more believable than the reason Marsh gives her in the books, which is that she’s apprehensive about the physical aspect of sex and marriage. It’s much easier to believe that Troy, the independent, world-famous artist, would be loath to relinquish her freedom by entering a relationship with Alleyn – even though it seems very likely he wouldn’t be the type to try to curtail her. It also allows us to see the relationship that began five episodes ago developing.
A Forged Identity
As this is going on, the other end of the pantomime horse goes to St. Crispin’s Parish to investigate its registry. Using some strange fluid that leaves older ink intact while removing the newer, Alleyn discovers that Cartell was right: P.P. forged his own name into the parish register as part of the Pyke Period family, making himself the twin of a long-deceased daughter. He’s been impersonating nobility all this time – for so long that he probably believes it himself by now. Fox says that he almost feels sorry for “the silly old snob”, but Alleyn points out that it could be a motive for murder.
The Clues Pile Up
Bailey has been gathering clues as well. He finds Cartell’s hairs and unidentified gloved fingerprints on one of the planks, showing Alleyn where some tiny scraps of material from the murderer’s gloves were left behind. Alleyn correctly identifies the material as string and heavy leather, which Fox surmises could have been left from string-backed leather gloves (of which we’ve seen Bantling wearing a pair). Bailey makes admiring noises at his boss’ ability to spot tiny clues: “Sharp eyes, Mr. Alleyn, sharp eyes.” Alleyn replies equably, “Flattery will get you nowhere, Bailey,” although I suspect he’s actually very pleased with himself.
By sheer coincidence, Moppet shows up at their temporary headquarters looking for Leiss’ driving gloves. They weren’t returned with the other clothes and happen to have been leather stringbacks – curiouser and curiouser. Once again, Fox and Alleyn press her for information about what she and Leiss wore at the treasure hunt and whether they had the cigarette case; Moppet seems to be on the brink of providing useful information, but she decides Alleyn’s trying to frame her and Leiss instead and takes off in an angry huff. “Proper little madam,” Alleyn observes to Fox, as she drives away in a distinctly unsafe manner.
A Different Forged Identity
On the trail of the forged paintings, Troy tracks Leiss (for it was he who sold the paintings to Moncrieff and stored the extras at the Hacienda Club) as far as his flat and his indignant, hell-hath-no-fury landlady, Mrs. Beech. Mrs. Beech seems to think Troy is another of Leiss’ paramours and decides to toss him out. She angrily flings an assortment of Leiss’ belongings after Troy as she leaves. Luckily for Troy, she finds a couple of clues amongst the debris: Leiss’ address book with Moppet’s Chalfont address, and a glass photographic slide. Troy uses an ancient-looking projector to ascertain what she really should already know – that the slide is of her own signature, used by the forger to copy onto the fake canvases. Ah, so that’s why all of her signatures looked identical!
Things aren’t going quite so well for Nicola, though. While visiting Bantling’s studio, she does a bit of poking around and discovers… a stash of unsigned Troys in his closet. Bantling is a closet Troy fan! Actually more like a closet creepy stalker with a Troy fixation. Nicola accuses Bantling of getting her the job with P.P. just so that he could be closer to Troy, and Bantling can’t deny it. He admits he gave some of his unsigned “tributes” (he doesn’t want to call them “forgeries”) to Moppet “as a lark”, not realizing Leiss would see the pecuniary opportunities in turning them into forged Troys. He’s horrified when Nicola tells him that Troy’s “livid” at what he’s done. Not seeing much future in dating a Troy-obsessed stalker (not that I can blame her), Nicola dumps Bantling on the spot and storms out.
More Attempted Murders
Regrouping at Scotland Yard, Alleyn and Fox are still hashing out the matter of Leiss’ gloves when they get a phone call from P.P. There’s a key piece of information he wants to tell Alleyn that he should have told him before, but just as he’s about to say it… he breaks off in mid-conversation. Something strange is afoot, and Alleyn and Fox set off immediately for Ribblethorpe. They find P.P. slumped on his desk, coshed on the noggin by a heavy brass, pike-shaped paperweight (I assumed it was a paperweight). Obviously someone didn’t want him talking to Alleyn.
There’s a lot of traffic around Chalfont and Ribblethorpe that night, because Bantling arrives next to see Moppet and Leiss, followed shortly by Junior Detective Troy. However, there’s no sign of Bantling as Troy outlines her suspicions about the forged paintings to Connie. Connie, who seems a little more… intense… than usual, denies that her sweet, innocent Moppet could’ve had anything to do with it, although she does think Moppet has gotten involved with some bad influences lately (to put it mildly). But that’s only because Moppet “gives of herself too freely”. Connie then invites Troy to stay for tea, and even though everyone in the audience who’s ever seen a horror movie before is yelling for Troy to leave, she stays.
A Final Pair of Clues
At Ribblethorpe, Alleyn has to endure some scenery-chewing before he can pry the Very Important Clue out of P.P. Gielgud seems to be milking it just a weeeeee bit too much, repeatedly and vaguely muttering about hearing someone (most likely Leiss, since it’s been emphasized throughout the episode that it’s his favourite song) whistling “Okay By Me” outside his window. “That song. Should’ve told Alleyn. Must speak to Alleyn,” he says, without getting to the important part. I suppose since P.P.’s been hit on the head we have to cut him some slack in his delirium, but it could’ve been more convincing. Anyway, he needs to hurry up and spit it out because Troy’s about to be murdered by the Crazy Dog Lady! Alleyn finally manages to extract from P.P. that he heard the whistling after one o’clock that morning.
Alleyn doesn’t have enough to pick up Leiss and Moppet, but a final clue points in another direction. Robinson spots two sets of dog prints outside; a very large print belonging to Pixie, and another much smaller print which Alleyn realizes must belong to… a Pekinese. This identifies Connie as P.P.’s attacker, so he and Fox head over to Chalfont immediately, only to be surprised to find Troy’s car there. The tension ratchets up just a bit.
The Tea Party from Hell
Meanwhile, Troy is having the tea party from Hell with Connie, on two levels. For one, Connie is a crashing bore who won’t shut up about Young Girls These Days and how difficult it is to keep them from dating unsuitable young men who are a bad influence on them. For the other, Connie is busily plotting Troy’s demise by every method she can think of. She replaces all of the sugar in the sugar bowl with Rataway poison (another popular item in Marsh households) and offers it to Troy, only to have Troy say that she never takes any. “Not even this once?” wheedles Connie hopefully. Then, still lecturing Troy about the difficulties of raising young girls, she goes back into the kitchen to pore over a selection of murder weapons. Hmm, there’s a dog lead for strangling, or various knives…
Completely oblivious to all this, Troy notices Lychee the Peke (who earlier brought her a leather stringback driving glove she assumed was Connie’s, due to the blood-stained thumb – dog bite, remember) scratching at a closet door. She slowly opens it as the suspense builds… and finds Bantling’s (who she doesn’t know) dead or unconscious body inside, with a large, bloody head wound. Not a good sign! Just as she suddenly realizes how incredibly dangerous her situation is, with perfect timing she’s grabbed from behind, a hand covering her mouth so she can’t scream. Aaauuggghhh!!
Alleyn to the Rescue
Troy is turned around to face her captor… and it’s Alleyn, who’s managed to silently sneak into the house along with Fox. He’s just in the nick of time, because Connie chooses that moment to emerge from the kitchen, having selected a large cleaver as the ideal famous-painter-dispatching weapon. She’s definitely gone ’round the bend. We see in flashback that it was she who tipped the sewer pipe onto Cartell – her own brother – after he slipped into the ditch, to prevent him from reporting Moppet and Leiss to the police for the cigarette case theft. Then she had to conk P.P. for the same thing, and conk Bantling because he knew that Leiss and Moppet made the forgeries.
Now all Alleyn has to do is either wrestle with the cleaver-wielding maniac or talk her down. “Connie… There’s no point now,” he says, in gentle, soothing tones, although it looks like Connie is calculating the odds of being able to take out all three of them. There’s a significant pause, then “How can we keep hold? How can we… stop?” she says, with an air of futility and resignation – just before dropping the cleaver to the floor, to everyone’s immense relief.
An Impressive Quarrel
Bantling’s taken away on a stretcher – I’m still not sure whether he was dead or not; his face wasn’t covered, so maybe he wasn’t, but it looked like he was loaded into a police van rather than an ambulance, so maybe he was. At any rate, Troy and Alleyn are off in a nice, quiet corner having a rather impressive quarrel at top volume – one of the few times Alleyn raises his voice and is really angry. Maybe this is their first real spat. Troy protests – accurately, but in vain – that it was she who tracked down Leiss and Moppet as the forgers, but Alleyn’s a little too enraged to quibble about credit: “What on earth did you think you were doing, walking into the middle of a murder investigation! […] Nothing anybody ever says makes the blindest bit of difference to you, does it! You just get an idea in your head and *OFF* you go!” All Troy can do is keep repeating, “I’m sorry!!” helplessly, miserably, and somewhat desperately in reply. “Is that all you can say — sorry??” shouts Alleyn, still furious.
…But It All Turns Out Okay
At an impasse, they both fall silent at opposite ends of their little corridor, then Alleyn rushes back and grabs Troy into a tight embrace: “Damn it, Troy, you could’ve been killed!” Which was, of course, his real worry the entire time and the reason he was so upset. Being an intelligent woman, Troy gloms onto him for all she’s worth. Aaaaaaaww. They stay like that for a few seconds until
stupid Fox interrupts to tell Alleyn that “transport” (a nice, euphemistic way of putting it) has arrived for Connie. Even then, Alleyn seems rather reluctant to let go of Troy. There, that’s the way you make up. She might even be reconsidering that whole pantomime horse thing.
All three of them watch as Connie is loaded into the police car. “Pitiful. Desperate. Barmy,” Fox notes succinctly, which seems like a pretty accurate summation. “‘Cruel madness of love’,” quotes Alleyn. “Shakespeare,” says Fox but Alleyn corrects, “Tennyson,” since the line is indeed from Tennyson’s “Maud, Part I“. Connie was driven to extremes by her love for Moppet and was willing to kill for her, even to the point of murdering her own brother – not that Moppet would’ve been grateful for it. Hopefully this isn’t a comment on how Alleyn feels about Troy, though, or vice versa. She still looks a little shell-shocked as Alleyn collects her to see her home, but at least they’ve finally expressed what they really feel for one another in a somewhat deeper way.
Everything Inspector Alleyn Could Want in a Mystery
Well, this episode featured some of Marsh’s favourite ingredients: nutty aristocratic families, weird relationships, strange names, Troy paintings, and cigarette cases. We also have a very intense Alleyn – and an intense Troy, for that matter – and some interesting developments in their relationship. One of the main strengths of series 2 for me is that we do get to see more of everyone’s human side, especially Alleyn displaying some of his softer emotions. It’s here the characters really began to gel and play off of each other in fascinating ways – all with the backdrop of murder, of course.
We also get to see Troy dipping her toe into Alleyn’s world and finding it to be a lot more than she bargained for. At first it seems like investigating the forgeries is a bit of an exciting lark for her – and maybe it was, up until finding Bantling’s body in the closet. People repeatedly warned her that it could be dangerous, but I’m sure she didn’t think murder would actually enter into it. In the novels, Alleyn puts a lot of effort into keeping his work and personal lives separate because he doesn’t want Troy to be repulsed by what he does, but here, he’s actively trying to keep her out of danger when she’s just as actively trying to be involved.
I was slightly disappointed that it seemed like Leiss and Moppet got off scot-free; that seems like a very unusual loose end for Marsh to leave flapping. I haven’t read Hand In Glove so I don’t know if everything was neatly resolved at its conclusion or not, but I suspect it would be. I can’t see Marsh allowing anyone who dared to forge Troy paintings to go unpunished. 😉
As usual, the production values were absolutely lovely. There are marvelous uses of shade and lighting throughout; particular stand-outs for me were the lovely venetian blind lighting in Alleyn’s office and the marvelous film noir, Binney-esque silhouette as Alleyn arrives at Ribblethorpe after P.P.’s phone call. Set decoration and location choices were excellent as well, along with period details like the cameras Alleyn’s “flash and dab boys” were using, Desirée’s decor, or even Troy’s ancient slide projector.
Mr. Malahide as Alleyn
All of the characters had their moments to shine: Fox exercising his charm below-stairs, Troy hot on the trail of the forgers… But Mr. Malahide in particular showed us Alleyn’s humour. I loved his “What the…??” face at Connie’s dog-coddling, his incredulous surprise at P.P.’s form condolence letters, his discomfort at Fox mentioning “your lot”, and his complete aplomb at being attacked by Desirée, not to mention his calmness when faced with a cleaver-wielding maniac who had bodies piling up everywhere. But I especially liked – if one can like a row – the way Mr. Malahide used Alleyn’s quarrel and frustration with Troy to, in a round-about way, show how deeply he loves her. And as a side benefit, we had the usual assortment of incredibly attractive and flattering Forties double-breasted suits for Mr. Malahide to be sharp-dressed in. 🙂