Mystery!, the long-running PBS series that has been showcasing excellent British mystery shows for 25 years, starts a new season in April (9:00 p.m. ET). The highlight will be a new batch of Miss Marple dramas, by the queen of mystery writers, Agatha Christie.
Mystery stories, by their very nature, embody a biblical worldview. They hinge on original sin (so that anyone might be guilty); they presuppose the existence of objective truth (with factual clues that can be understood by reason); and what is hidden is brought to light at a last judgment.
Mysteries are also an art form whose greatest practitioners tend to be women. In particular, English women. From Dorothy L. Sayers to today's P.D. James, both Christian women of considerable literary talent, women have dominated the genre.
The grandmama of them all was Ms. Christie (1890-1976), who wrote 79 books that sold a total of a billion copies, making her books the third-best sellers of all time, after the Bible and William Shakespeare.
And the grandmama of Ms. Christie's sleuths was Miss Jane Marple, a little old lady in the English country village of St. Mary Mead, who spends her time knitting, having tea with her friends, and going to church. And solving murders.
Other actresses have played Miss Marple, but few have been as spry and clever as Geraldine McEwan, who plays the part in these two-part dramatizations of four of Ms. Christie's novels. The production captures perfectly the sights and the feel of the English village, with its gardens and vicarage, and the wide range of personalities. "We're all very ordinary at St. Mary Mead," comments Miss Marple, "but ordinary people sometimes do the most astonishing things." That is for sure, in real life as in fiction.