Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Series Two

Starring: Patricia Routledge, Derek Benfield and Dominic Monaghan
Acorn Media
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 06 March 2006

Hetty Wainthropp is now gaining a reputation as a sleuth and becoming very popular wherever something requires her no nonsense brand of investigation. Robert, as usual, is worried about the finances and Geoffrey is keen to get trendy transport. Hetty isn't in it for the money as she finds solving problems and helping others reward enough...

Hetty Wainthropp, based on the novels by David Cook, follows a great English tradition of eccentric female characters which solve murder mysteries. Like her forbearer Miss Marple, especially played by Margaret Rutherford, Hetty takes her little notebook and her odd English affectations and tries to help people whose lives have taken a turn for the worst. The show stars Patricia Routledge, whose previous series for television had been Keeping up Appearances, where her portrayal of Hyacinth had amused the public for many a year. That's not to suggest that Patricia is any lightweight as her work on the stage and in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads plainly showed. For sidekicks, and every hero needs one, Hetty had her dependable husband Robert, played by the excellently laconic Derek Benfield and Dominic Monaghan, who plays the ever enthusiastic Geoffrey, who has subsequently found fame and fortune in The Lord of the Rings and Lost...

The two discs in this set represent the entirety of season two, which only consist of six episodes. Each disc is presented in the original stereo and for the most part the picture is clear if a little soft. There are no extras to speak off, just the option for subtitles, filmographies and a picture gallery containing fourteen pictures.

The first disc contains the first three episodes Poison Pen, Lost Chords and Runaways. All the stories are of the little England sort, small domestic crimes in a rural or suburban setting. What Hetty Wainthropp does so well is character interaction; there is something very domestic about the crimes, her home life and Hetty's investigations. It's a joy to watch the characters even when they are not investigating a crime.

Poison Pen sees Hetty off to solve, well a poison pen problem which seems to be the work of a local spinster Helga. Hetty goes undercover to find who is sending them. The boys, as boys will, decide that they are not doing enough and unbeknownst to Hetty take on a case of their own.

Lost Chords sees the Wainthropp Detective Agency investigating why the finalists in the Blainthorp music festival are all loosing their voices. Hetty suspects foul play, but is she right? Poor old Robert even gets arrested, though he was doing a great impression of a dirty old man at the time.

Last on the first disc is Runaways, which starts with the introduction of a very grim family with the mother and son arguing about the son's inability to make money or find a woman, but what has this to do with the disappearance of the Mayor's daughter? An old dead woman and a missing young one, can Hetty find the connection?

Disc two holds the last three episodes in this way too short a season. The episodes include The Astral Plane, A Rose by Any Other Name and Woman of the Year. In The Astral Plane, Hetty really should be careful about pretending to be someone else. This time she gets into all sorts of trouble when she investigates a medium by pretending to have a dead husband. This works well until her supposedly dead husband's daughter turns up at her door. What has Geoffrey been up to now?

In A Rose by Any Other Name, Hetty is asked to investigate Lester Rose (get it? Ah such word play) whose potential new family feel that he is marrying their daughter for money rather than love. Hetty discovers that Lester has a chequered past but does that make him poor husband material?

Last in the season is Woman of the Year and Hetty is off undercover at a woman's refuge. Her experience opens her eyes to the realities of abuse within families.

What makes Hetty Wainthropp such compulsive watching, apart from the great cast, is the idea that not everything has to end in a murder. In this the programme is much more subtle than some of its competitors. Here are, generally, stories of not evil people, but people whose lives have gone astray - astray to the point where Hetty, pure of heart and with the best of intentions, attempts to rescue. As an audience it's a good message that not everyone who needs to be investigated is necessarily evil at heart and sometime the world can just be too big a place to live in.

So, a good, if short, series that can be enjoyed by the whole family and shows that if you put quality in you get quality out.

Charles Packer

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