Starring: Diana Rigg, Neil Dudgeon

Based on the novels by Gladys Mitchell

Format: VHS (also available on various PBS stations showing the Mystery! series)

Genre: Mystery

Running time: 4 hours on 2 cassettes ( 4 one-hour episodes)

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Mrs. Adela Bradley and her chauffeur George Moody return in four new adventures. In "Death at the Opera," Adela arrives at the Hadleigh Heights Academy for Young Ladies, having been invited as guest speaker, ready to "get a few things off my chest," as she tells George. Her feminist ideas do not amuse the current staff any more than they did the staff when Adela, herself, was a student at the institute. As luck would have it, the speech is delayed by death.

One dead body may be an accident but two dead bodies? Surely, not. The proprietors of the finishing school don't want to bring scandal to their doorstep so they agree to allow Mrs. Bradley to investigate the suspicious deaths. An agreement they soon regret as Mrs. Bradley has never met a secret that she didn't want to expose to closer scrutiny.

In "The Rising of the Moon," a traveling circus is forced to extend its stay in a sleepy village when the performers begin dying of unnatural causes. Someone is slashing them. Inspector Henry Christmas, of Scotland Yard, arrives to take charge of the case and to ask for Mrs. Bradley's assistance in uncovering the the culprit responsible. While the Inspector is quite satisfied to charge one of the circus performers, Mrs. Bradley turns her attention to the sleepy village which has some secrets of its own that someone might be willing to kill for.

"Laurels Are Poison" finds Mrs. Bradley visiting an old friend who is trying to maintain her stature in a world gone awry. She has lost three of her sons to the war. Her only daughter is married to a man some call a hero though he seems less than heroic now. The house is said to be haunted. The ghostly spectre is said to be that of a soldier. Secrets are tucked into nearly every room. Death is close at hand, in the shadows.

This is probably my favorite episode because while searching to understand the truth about the ghost who haunts the mansion, we learn about the past that is haunting George Moody, Adela's chauffeur.

"The Worsted Viper" finds Mrs. Bradley at the seashore in a quaint resort village. She has been invited to present an award to Inspector Henry Christmas. He has chosen this village for his retirement. George has his own special reason for wanting to visit. His daughter works at the local hotel. Upon his arrival, George's daughter announces that she is soon to be wed. News to George, I can assure you. When another bride-to-be is discovered ritually slain, Mrs. Bradley and the Inspector take on the case. Meanwhile, George is put to good use, by Mrs. "B" and his daughter's mother-in-law-to-be. She has her eye on George, who has his eye on Mrs. Bradley, who seems to have her eye on Inspector Christmas. The story bogs down a bit in the background mumbo-jumbo of a mad man who preys on virgins and was hanged a goodly number of years ago. It was Mrs. Bradley's first big case so this new resurgence of the ritual slayings has her worried. It also has George worried. His daughter is a virgin...

I can't say that all of the clues are neatly tied up at the end of an episode, but the few that weren't resolved to my satisfaction didn't deter me from enjoying the overall experience. I've watched "The Rising of the Moon" two and a half times now and can't for the life of me figure out why the second person was killed. I have a few ideas of my own, but I didn't get the answers from the filmed episode. Portions of "The Worsted Viper" make no sense to me, at all, but I am willing to forgive and not nitpick, due to the enormous amount of fun I had spending the weekend at the charming coastal resort with Adela and George.

I am anxiously awaiting the next installment in what I hope will be a long-running series. In the meantime, I plan to head for my bookstore and see if I can locate any of Gladys Mitchell's novels.

Currently the second series of the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries is only available on VHS as part of a four-episode package. Although it does not bear directly on "Speedy Death" (the 90-minute pilot episode available on DVD) to receive the most enjoyment from this series, you should remember to watch "The Worsted Viper" after the other three episodes "Death at the Opera," "The Rising of the Moon," and "Laurels Are Poison." Actually, you can watch the other three episodes in any order that you choose, just watch "The Worsted Viper" last.

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