Show name: Murder in Mesopotamia
Release date: 2001
Genre: Murder mystery
Starring: David Suchet, Hugh Fraser
Dramatized by: Clive Exton
Length: 98 minutes
Poirot: Murder in Mesopotamia is an adaptation of the book with the same name published by Agatha Christie in 1936.
Poirot: Murder in Mesopotamia was shown in June 2002 as the second of two episodes in Season Eight of the David Suchet/ITV adaptation. This is the version I am reviewing here.
The action takes place at an archaeological dig outside Baghdad.
This is somewhere that Agatha Christie would have been intensely familiar with, both in terms of the place and the people encountered on a dig.
The plot revolves around the lead archaeologist Dr Eric Leidner (Ron Berglas) and his American wife, the glamorous and alluring Louise Leidner (Barbara Barnes).
Louise has been married before. Her first husband apparently died under mysterious circumstances during the war, having been convicted of being a spy.
She has tried to move on over the years but, whenever she does, she is tormented by threatening letters claiming to be from her husband.
This happens even though a corpse with his identity papers was found in a train wreck years ago.
However, when Louise met Eric Leidner their romance proceeded without difficulty and they married.
She has tried to form a new life for herself in the Middle East with her new husband. However, some of his colleagues are dismissive of Louise for her nervous anxiety and need for a nurse.
Louise is killed in her room and her body is discovered by Eric. He tasks himself for not having accepted her claims to be in danger as grounded in fact.
A whole list of suspects is provided courtesy of the people at the dig, none of whom seek to have liked her very much.
Poirot and Captain Hastings are on hand to help solve the murder. Hastings is visiting his nephew who works at the dig, and Poirot has come with him to Iraq at the request of Countess Rosakoff.
Other deaths at the dig threaten to cause confusion. The assumption is that they are related to Louise’s murder. However, Poirot is able to separate the different threads from each other.
The question of who is stealing artifacts from the storage room also needs to be resolved.
Unlike many of the other ITV Poirot adaptations, Murder in Mesopotomia is not a star-studied cast. In fact, I was struck by just how many of the actors were unfamiliar. However, the performances were solid and credible, and I was soon drawn into the premise.
Unfortunately, but hardly surprisingly, filming in Iraq during 2001-2 wasn’t a realistic option. The episode was filmed in Tunisia instead, with the hotel scenes filmed at the Hotel Casino in Hamman Lif and the dig scenes being filmed at Uthina Archaeological site.
The strength of the episode lay in its location filming rather than in an all-star cast. The locations felt real and vivid even though filming took place in a different country.
However, by comparison with big-name adaptations such as Death on the Nile, the star-factor was a trifle limited.
It was lovely to see Captain Hastings again as the series of adaptations moves towards its final season. His character is introduced in the adaptation, having not appeared in the book of the same name.
Thank you for reading my review.
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