An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Set 1 (1982)

For British mystery fans

When private detective Pryde commits suicide, he leaves his business to protege, Cordelia Gray. Cordelia (Helen Baxendale) struggles to maintain the business and solve the cases brought to her. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (set 1) is composed of 2 stories on a total of 3 videotapes. The total viewing time for these tapes is 330 minutes.

Fans of British detective made for television films and/or mysteries should prepare themselves for a treat. In the first story, Sacrifice Cordelia is employed to investigate the suicide of a young man named Mark. Mark dropped out of university and took a job as a gardener at a remote house. A few weeks later, he was found hanging in a cottage–an apparent suicide. Mark’s father, a researcher, employs Cordelia to establish the reasons for Mark’s suicide, but Cordelia isn’t so sure that Mark committed suicide. She soon sniffs the possibility of murder.

In the second episode The Last Embrace, the female owner of a huge, fancy hotel employs Cordelia. The hotel owner claims that her husband is a monster, guilty of harassing female staff and then buying them off when they dare complain. Divorce is in the air, and evidence of chronic infidelity will determine who gets possession of the hotel. Cordelia is employed to go undercover working at the hotel, and essentially, she is bait for the husband. The husband is quite a charmer, and he swears his wife is the one with the fidelity problem. Soon, a corpse pops up, and Cordelia’s loyalties are in question.

The title, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman says it all. Early on in the series, a man tells Cordelia that the career of a private detective isn’t very suitable for a female. And that idea remains a tantalizing idea throughout the series. Cordelia isn’t a perfect private detective–in fact she makes mistakes–rather big ones. And these mistakes usually occur when she allows her heart (which isn’t exercised very much in her personal life) to overrule her head. And it’s her head that’s supposed to be running things here. In the first story, Cordelia finds herself becoming inordinately involved in Mark’s death. She realizes that she would have really liked him had she ever had the opportunity to know him, and this makes her leave her objectivity behind. Cordelia also manages to alienate people she questions. Her questions are usually rather naked and invasive. People who could help Cordelia find her annoying or repellent. She remains something of a curiosity to others. Cordelia is a young, attractive woman. In other circumstances, she should have a social life, friends, boyfriends, and family. But Cordelia has no one–nothing, and this exposes her vulnerability. At one point, she visits a university, and it’s a poignant scene. The Elysian days of scholarly pursuit are not for Cordelia. Not a word is spoken about this, but we realize that Cordelia recognizes that she never had this opportunity and never will.

Cordelia does have a faithful sidekick, of sorts. Edith Sparshott (Annette Crosbie) is her secretary–rapidly promoted to the position of personal assistant. Edith plays a protective, motherly figure. She’s savvier than she appears, and what she doesn’t know about Cordelia, she accurately guesses. An Unsuitable Job For a Woman is the sort of mystery in which the mystery itself isn’t of paramount importance; it’s the characters that matter. The stories and characters are based on PD James novels–although apparently, the author does have some problems with the manner in which her literary creation of Cordelia Gray is handled. Fans of British mysteries should really enjoy this well-acted series, and the actress Helen Baxendale delivers a great, yet subtle, performance as Cordelia.

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