I happened across a recent article in The Weekly Standard by Hannah Long, listing “The 10 Best Brit Detective Shows, Ever“. After some interesting dissing of the upcoming “Murder on the Orient Express” remake (sadly, not the “Minder” version) we at the Appreciation were pleased to notice that one of our favourites appeared on the list. Coming in at #8, “The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries” is described as follows:
A lesser-known series, Alleyn Mysteries is based on Ngaio Marsh’s novels. Patrick Malahide is wonderful as the dapper and understated gentleman detective, Roderick Alleyn, backed by a perfect working class foil in William Simons’ Inspector Fox.
While the tipped fedoras and tailored suits suggest noir, Alleyn Mysteries is more in the cozy mystery tradition, with country house murders and gloriously nutty supporting casts. Strong on atmosphere and entertainment value, the series’ writing isn’t quite good enough to give it a top spot.
Well, I don’t know about “lesser known” – the series is still in reruns in the U.K. – but I have to agree that Mr. Malahide is simply wonderful as the “dapper and understated gentleman detective”, which describes Alleyn very well. And William Simons as Inspector Br’er Fox is indeed perfect as his foil/indispensable partner.
However, I think the “Inspector Alleyn Mysteries” owe more to film noir than Ms. Long is willing to grant. Certainly the series had terrific lighting, staging, set decoration, wardrobe, and production values that all gave it a very noirish air as far as I’m concerned. And I do agree that Mr. Malahide’s “tipped fedoras and tailored suits” were a big part of the appeal, with Alleyn frequently running into some bizarre suspects and situations (believe it or not, they get even more bizarre in the books). I also think the series writers smoothed out some of Marsh’s rougher spots and made the storylines flow somewhat more organically, as well as adding much-needed warmth and depth to both Troy and Alleyn’s characters – which may get me in trouble with Marsh purists.
Other notable series on the list include “A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery” featuring Lord Peter Wimsey at #10, “Cadfael” at #9, the Jeremy Brettt “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” at #5, “Foyle’s War” at #3, “Inspector Morse” at #2, and “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” at #1. Fearless Admin points out that Mr. Malahide guest-starred in both “Morse” (as Jeremy Boynton, cad extraordinaire, in “Driven to Distraction“), and “Poirot” (as Defence Council Sir Montague Depleach in “Five Little Pigs“), so he’s no stranger to those series. We also thought that Mr. Malahide would be wonderful in “Foyle’s War” in any capacity, or in “Lewis”, a “Morse” spin-off that didn’t make The Weekly Standard’s list. We’d have been happier if the “Inspector Alleyn Mysteries” could have ranked higher (okay, we might be slightly biased on that score), but still, we’re glad to see it on the list at all, showing that it hasn’t left people’s memories.