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With: Roy Marsden, Bill Nighy, etc.
Written by: Various, based on novels by P.D. James
Directed by: Various
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 1765
Date: 03/18/2013

P.D. James: The Essential Collection (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dalgliesh Dilemmas

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Koch Vision has released on DVD an absolutely mammoth collection of P.D. James mysteries: eight complete stories spread across 13 discs and running something like 1765 minutes, or almost 30 hours. Some of these were originally presented as miniseries, and run upwards of four hours apiece. Here in the U.S. the films have appeared on PBS's "Mystery!"

I opted to view the three shortest of the films, Unnatural Causes (1993), A Mind to Murder (1995) and Original Sin (1996).

Each stars Roy Marsden as Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh. Like Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison character in the Prime Suspect series, Dalgliesh has a troubled past that leaves him a little distant and a little guarded. A former poet and once married, Dalgliesh throws himself into his work now, solving difficult cases with multiple suspects.

Celebrated author P.D. James, now a baroness in her 80s, has a predilection for creating murder victims that no one likes, so that virtually everyone in the story has a motive. In Original Sin, an arrogant young man takes over a publishing firm and refuses to print the latest murder mystery by one of their regular clients -- an elderly female writer.

Some of the films play better than others. A Mind to Murder is the clearest, while Unnatural Causes has the most interesting directorial flourishes, but the least vivid storyline. They were all made with the small screen in mind, and they have the effect of being more relaxing than they are exciting. (They're the perfect thing to enjoy with a cup of tea.)

DVD Details: After I saw the three shorter films, it occurred to me that the longer ones might have played a bit better, having more time to establish the myriad of suspects as fleshed-out characters. The longer films are: Death of an Expert Witness (1983), Shroud for a Nightingale (1984),Cover Her Face (1985), The Black Tower (1985) and A Taste for Death(1988). Each disc comes with various extras, such as bios on James andMarsden, a James bibliography, credits and weblinks. Koch Vision isselling each film separately as well as in the giant box set. The bigbox sells for $149.98, the longer, two-disc films sell for $29.98 andthe single-disc titles sell for $19.98.

Best Buy Co, Inc.