Show name: At Bertram’s Hotel
Release date: 2007
Genre: Murder mystery
Starring: Geraldine McEwan, Mica Paris, Polly Walker
Director: Dan Zeff
ITV produced a long list of the Agatha Christie’s Marple books as TV adaptations while they had the rights. One of my favourites was At Bertram’s Hotel, released in 2007.
It’s that time of year when you want to be cosy inside somewhere watching…a TV show where almost everyone is cosy inside somewhere!
We quite often see flashbacks to Jane Marple’s life in the ITV adaptations, and here we see Jane as a child visiting a top London hotel.
As an old lady, played by Geraldine McEwan, Miss Marple returns to relive a favourite childhood memory.
She’s still razor sharp so it isn’t long before she begins to notice that things at Bertram’s Hotel are pretty odd. Top of her list is that nothing has really changed since she was a girl.
This makes Miss Marple question whether anything she sees at Bertram’s Hotel is genuine.
It’s postwar, and everyone is still recovering from the trauma of the Holocaust. There are plenty of early references to the conflict to help the viewer to appreciate that the consequences of the war will be crucial to the plot.
Bess Sedgwick (Polly Walker) is said to have run a resistance cell in France. Stanislaw Malinowski (Ed Stoppard) is connected to her, but sports a Nazi cigarette case in public.
Who is he trying to draw out into public view?
European guests such as Mutti, a hat designer from Germany, enter this strange milieu. Mutti is deeply affected by the sight of an original painting hanging on the wall of the hotel, though everyone else assumes that it is the usual hotel copy.
When maid Tilly Rice is found strangled up on the roof of Bertram’s Hotel, Inspector Bird (Stephen Mangan) arrives to solve the murder.
He is ably assisted not merely by Miss Marple, but also by her namesake, maid Jane Cooper (Martine McCutcheon).
Jane tells Miss Marple that she ‘notices things, like you do’ and the two are soon hard at work solving the mystery.
Jane is saddened that no one cares when a maid is killed, but Miss Marple and Inspector Bird prove the opposite to be the case.
She has also noticed that Tilly has far more money to spend than is credible and concludes that Tilly was blackmailing one of the guests.
There is a danger in hotels that everyone will be a stranger and the usual murder mystery dynamic of family will be lost. However, At Bertram’s Hotel successfully sustains the family feel.
Bess Sedgwick is secretly married to the doorman, Micky Gorman, who is the second murder victim. Her daughter Elvira by the hotel owner Richard Blake, and Elvira’s disabled companion Bridget, plus cousin Selena Hazy (Francesca Annis) mean that the core characters are very closely connected.
Even Amelia Walker (Mica Paris) isn’t there by accident. Everyone finds their way to Bertram’s Hotel for a reason, many connected with the postwar Nazi hunts. Others for more personal reasons.
We think of hotels as connecting strangers in fleeting ways, but the whole cast of suspects have backstories to link them to each other going back decades. The war is the other factor that draws strangers into each other’s orbits.
At Bertram’s Hotel sustained the cosy feel of a murder mystery very effectively even in a London hotel setting. Both the limited cast of suspects and the location were kept tightly focused.
Almost all the scenes took place inside or immediately in front of the hotel, except where Bess, Selina and Elvira go to confront the crooked family lawyer. The weather was at times dark and misty, forcing everyone inside for much of the time. The size of the hotel and the contrast between servants’ quarters and guest areas and rooms kept our interest fresh.
I just loved the cosy feel of At Bertram’s Hotel. Martine McCutcheon was ideally cast as Jane Cooper, and Geraldine McEwan is one of my favourite Miss Marples.
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