Review: Agatha Christie’s Partners In Crime (S1 E6/6), Sunday 30th August, BBC1

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Programme Name: Partners In Crime - TX: 30/08/2015 - Episode: 6 (No. 6) - Picture Shows: Episode Six BTS: ‘N or M?' Tuppence Beresford (JESSICA RAINE) - (C) Endor Productions - Photographer: Laurence Cendrowicz

(C) Endor Productions – Photographer: Laurence Cendrowicz

Tommy and Tuppence have made little progress with their investigations into a missing weapons scientist – their main suspect has been killed, and now a note has arrived threatening atomic devastation. So is the mysterious ‘N’ actually one of the guests in the Sans Souci hotel?

Wideboy Carl Denim has been exposed as a filthy Hun, and has gone on the run, and in the process Tommy has been knocked on the head and has disappeared, leaving Tuppence distraught on the beach.

Tommy soon turns up on the beach, groggy but unharmed, and is taken in by Commander Haydock (Roy Marsden), who drugs him, but not before Tommy’s found the missing scientist tied up in a back room. Haydock phones ‘N’, but is ‘N’ actually Carl Denim or not?

Tuppence decides that Carl’s mystery girlfriend must have been the hotel owner Sheila Perenna (Aoife McMahon), but in following her she arouses the suspicion of maid Veronika (Pinar Ogun).

Tommy awakes tied up with Worthing, but can’t gain his trust – unsurprisingly since he seems to be an idiot. Tuppence trails Sheila to a meeting with Carl, who, surprise surprise, turns out to be not a spy, but just a smuggler. He admits to knocking Tommy out on the beach near Prussia Cove, but doesn’t know where he is now.

Haydock confesses all to Tommy – basically he’s a disgruntled former employee of HM Government, and has hit on his blackmail plan after being deprived of his pension. ‘N’, he reveals, is a woman – surely then it must be the mystery blonde we keep seeing?

Haydock is looking for an essential key hidden by Worthing, and Tommy uses the delay to sow suspicion of N. Tuppence turns up and blusters her way into the house, where she spots Tommy’s coat. With the help of Sheila and Carl she rescues Tommy and Worthing, though the whole effort threatens to descend into farce because they can’t manage to kick a door down.

They go to the hotel to retrieve the key which has been hidden in a painting, but are caught by Mrs Sprot, who pulls a gun, takes the key and makes off with her accomplice, the blonde assassin.

With the Home Secretary unwilling to meet the ransom terms, the gang have only three hours to find the bomb. Examining the list of Russian agents N wants released, they realise by comparing photos that one is Sprot’s husband, a spy codenamed M (so her love-letters were, as we suspected, not from ‘M’ for ‘Major’ Khan.) So freeing him is her actual motive.

‘M’, though, has died in prison (why wouldn’t Sprot know that if she had a network of spies?). Implausibly, to lure out Mrs Sprot, Tommy disguises himself as M and goes with Carter to meet her on the pier. It’s a doomed plan and it ends with Carter injured and Sprot getting away.

As Tommy, Tuppence and Albert search the pier for the bomb, the blonde assassin turns up, but Carter kills her – in rather ungentlemanly manner by shooting her in the back from hiding. Then Tuppence tussles with Sprot, who falls to her death. Albert finds and defuses the bomb, using the traditional ‘don’t cut the red wire’ technique.

Carter’s pleased that Norfolk has not been devastated, as this might have caused almost £20 worth of damage; and Sprot’s prattle has given away the identity of the mole in his office. He’s so pleased in fact that he offers T&T regular detective work. Oh God, that means there’s going to be a series two.

Partners In Crime started weakly and hardly improved as it went along; hamstrung by failings in Agatha Christie’s original novels, it was fatally compromised by the decision to play Tommy’s character as an amiable idiot. This just meant that his rare moments of competence were all the less convincing. It’s a pity, because Jessica Raine both looks and acts the part, and James Fleet and Matthew Steer offer sterling support. But with holes in the plot wider than Cromer Pier and a good deal of farcical timewasting, the second story was no stronger than the first.

Unfortunately, because it ticks so many boxes for the BBC, and because they’ve already forked over the licence money to the Christie estate, you can be sure that this uneven farrago will be back in due course. Bring back Poirot, we say.

Chris Jenkins

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