Death in Holy Orders: P.D. James (2003)

“I’m just a wretched and unrepentant sinner.”

In Death in Holy Orders, a made-for-British television mystery based on a P.D. James novel, Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard receives an anonymous note advising that he should investigate a death that occurred at St Anshelms College. The death of Ronald Treeves was ruled accidental, so Dalgliesh travels to St Anshelms to make a few inquiries and put any questions to rest. The trip to St Anshelms is nostalgic for Dalgliesh as he spent many years of his life there.

When Dalgleish arrives, the atmosphere at St Anshelms is somewhat strained. Archdeacon Crampton’s personal mission is to ensure the Church of England closes St Anshelms as he considers the college’s practices archaic and elitist. Naturally the people who live and work at St Anshelms resent the impending closure, and the fact that years earlier Crampton was suspected of murdering his wife, doesn’t exactly help matters. At first, Dalgliesh’s investigations bear little fruit, but it seems that his presence has stirred the murky depths of a murderer’s mind. The body count mounts and Dalgliesh is hot on the trail of a killer.

Martin Shaw plays Dalgliesh, replacing long-term actor Roy Marsden. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about the change in the lead character, but Shaw played the character well and in his own fashion. Somehow it worked, and that may be due to the fact that Shaw didn’t seem to be a replacement for Marsden–rather Shaw seemed to be an entirely different character. The plot was extremely interesting, and the setting brings some bigger issues to the surface–this makes for a meatier mystery. Is St Anshelms the hot bed of corruption that Crampton claims, or is it an institution to be cherished? And lonely Commander Dalgliesh may finally find a love interest. Fans of British mysteries should enjoy the 180 minutes of entertainment the DVD offers. Extra features include actor bios, and a short documentary about P.D.James.

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