REVIEW Dalgliesh (S1 E2/6)

Dour Adam Dalgliesh has plenty to be glum about as the second part of Shroud for a Nightingale opens – his fangirl Nurse Fallon has become the second victim of a poisoner, found dead in her bed after a whisky nightcap. But is her death related to that of Nurse Pearce, last episode?

We’ve taken pretty easily to Bertie Carvel’s portrayal of PD James’ Dalgliesh, and been impressed with the atmosphere of the piece and the level of 70s historical detail. Mind you, Dalgliesh is somewhat out of his natural sphere here – the isolated Hampshire nursing training school might as well be an Agatha Christie country house, and Dalgliesh’s home turf is metropolitan London. 

Nonetheless, Shroud started well, with the usual roster of suspects, from a pompous chief surgeon to a saucy housekeeper, but no clarity about the motive for the murders. So Dalgliesh has a long way to go in this second episode of the two-parter, and now one of his allies, the poetry-loving Nurse Fallon, has become the second victim. Oddly, no-one suggests evacuating the place and heading for the hills. 

Chief Surgeon Courtney-Briggs is understandably peeved that a second death has taken place during Dalgliesh’s investigation, but he’s a pretty suspicious-looking cove himself. At this stage, though, we suspect mousy Sister Brumfett (Amanda Root), who flutters around ineffectually but looks like she might be hiding something. 

While DS Masterson is getting his leg over one of the prettier nurses, Dalgliesh finds Nurse Fallon’s book of his poetry, and her well-thumbed copy of Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist diatribe The Second Sex – is there some Sapphic undercurrent to the atmosphere? Maybe, but Fallon was pregnant. Personal letters are missing, and a book Fallon took out of the library – an account of the Nuremberg trials. Was this connected to the recent death of a patient, Martin Dettinger? When Masterson questions Dettinger’s sozzled mother, she reveals that Martin had recognised someone from the trials in the hospital.  

Dalgliesh finds the Nuremberg book in the library, but when he goes to question housegirl Morag, he’s bashed over the head in the woods. He already suspects Courtney-Briggs, who supposedly got Nurse Fallon pregnant, so he doesn’t like the idea of being anaesthetised to have stitches. 

So it’s all to play for as Dalgliesh goes back to the Nuremberg book to look for clues – his list of suspects and relationships pinned rather thoughtlessly to the wall (didn’t they have cork boards?). 

There’s a little nonsense about Masterson’s phone not working, to ramp up the tension before he turns up to reveal that Dettinger recognised one of the ward sisters as a nurse who has worked at a Nazi concentration camp and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But which sister? When the groundskeeper’s hut goes up in flames, Sister Brumfett is found dead inside – she’s even left a convenient suicide note and confession to the two murders. 

Of course, it’s not that simple – Dalgliesh realises that it was actually steely Matron Mary Taylor who was the villain. (By that time, his  massive head wound has miraculously healed, without a lock of his perfect hair being disturbed). 

We’ve enjoyed this first two-parter, and certainly appreciated Bertie Carvel’s take on the character of Adam Dalgliesh, which has been extensively dramatised before (twice on TV and several times on radio).

Can the tempo be kept up for the following two stories in this series, and further into dramatisations of PD James’ novels? We’re promised an account of Dalgliesh’s career right from the 1970s to the present day, so there’s plenty more poetic justice yet to be meted out.

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    Bit underwhelmed to be honest.


  2. Keith says:

    Nicely filmed but somehow I felt Part 2 lost the plot a little by cramming too many twists into half of the story. Would splitting it over three parts have been better? Not sure…let’s see what the second tale holds


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