Ordeal By Innocence - An Agatha Christie murder-mystery with a jet-black heart

It was the Easter Bank Holiday weekend this week, and to go with the traditions of hot cross buns and the need to loosen the waistband of your trousers after one-too-many Easter eggs, we also had the now-traditional bank holiday Agatha Christie murder-fest.

Friday, 6th April 2018, 4:01 pm
Updated Friday, 6th April 2018, 4:06 pm
The cast of Ordeal By Innocence, not just another chintz-athon. From left, Luke Treadaway, Anna Chancellor, Bill Nighy and Morven Christie

Delayed from Christmas after allegations of sexual misconduct against one of the stars, Ed Westwick, Ordeal By Innocence (Sundays, BBC1, 9pm) had to be reshot with a new actor (Christian Cooke).

Fortunately, much like Ernie Wise’s wig, you couldn’t see the join.

One of Christie’s lesser-known works, this was set in a 1950s world of croquet, tea on the lawn and the minute-by-minute sparking up of cigarettes.

Watch the trailer for Ordeal By InnocenceRepressed emotions – anger, misery, sex – seethed and bubbled beneath the genteel surface and the claustrophobic manor house in which much of the action occurred trembled on the edge of an eruption of ‘feelings’.

The plot revolves around the murder of the matriarch of the family, Rachel Argyll (Anna Chancellor). Her adopted son Jack is accused of the dastardly deed, and later dies in a prison brawl. Months later, and a man claiming to be Jack’s alibi pitches up on the eve of the wedding of Leo Argyll (Bill Nighy), Rachel’s husband, to his secretary Gwenda, clearly a gold-digger.

This three-parter is beautifully shot – one image of veiled, black-clad mourners in front of a white silk-lined coffin was particularly striking – and stars pop out of every corner.

At first glance, this was just another comfortable bank holiday chintz-athon, but it takes the source novel and adds a black heart, where everyone has something to hide, and no one is innocent. Terrific.

Spoof history series Cunk on Britain (Tuesdays, BBC2, 10pm) was full of laugh-out-loud lines, delivered with total deadpan commitment by the brilliant Diane Morgan. With this and Mum, BBC2 is on a roll.

Deep State (Thursdays, FOX, 9pm) could have been a pale Spooks imitations, but after the first episode it seems darker, more twisty-turny, and it has a charismatic star in Mark Strong.