Plot: What’s it about?
If you’re a fan of mysteries, there are a lot of choices out there. The Ruth Rendell Mysteries series offers some nice options not found on most other shows of this kind. The episodes are each unique, so there is no central character who returns each time, while the stories tend to be more psychological, instead of traditional crime drama. I found the episodic nature to be welcome, as it keeps the series fresh. Also of note is that each episode varies in length, so a complex story might run well over two hours, while a simpler mystery might clock in under an hour. This works well, as it ensures the stories are never rushed or stretched thin and that helps with the flow, to be sure. I wouldn’t rank The Ruth Rendell Mysteries with the best mystery shows I’ve seen, but it is solid and features some impressive performers. The dark, moody nature of the stories is going to please some, but be lost on others. But if you’re a fan of this kind of show, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries is worth a look. This second set contains six episodes and below is a brief synopsis on each one included.
1. Bribery & Corruption 104 minutes)- Nicholas Hawthorne (James D’Arcy) has fallen head over heels for a woman, while his widowed father has also found romance with someone special. The trouble is that father and son have fallen for the same woman, but the story doesn’t end there. She also happens to be married, so juggling three men is no simple task. But when she turns up dead, who was behind her sudden demise?
2. Front Seat (52 minutes)- Cecily Branksome (Janet Suzman) still remembers a murder case that happened in her youth, in fact she more than remembers the case. She is fascinated by the case and while it was resolved years back, she still has a hunch that the whole story hasn’t been told. When she interjects herself into the case and starts poking around, she opens old wounds and upsets some people. One of those most upset is her own husband Hugh (Edward Hardwicke), but should Cecily ignore her instincts and just let the memories fade?
3. A Case of Coincidence (105 minutes)- There seems to be a serial killer on the loose, as a rash of brutal murders has left the police under intense pressure. Chief Inspector Moore (Ronald Pickup) and Inspector Masters (Keith Barron) are already under the gun to produce some progress in the case, but when a surgeon’s wife is slaughtered, the tension increases even more. With pressure like never before, can the inspectors unravel the truth about this serial murderer?
4. A Dark Blue Perfume (52 minutes)- Liz (Susannah York) was recently widowed, but she has been able to cope and has even started the path toward a new life. In the wake of her husband’s death, Liz has found a new spark of romance, but her new beau has a rather spotted past. Has Liz rushed into his arms without thought to help her cope and if so, what intentions does this mysterious new man have for her?
5. May & June (102 minutes)- All brothers and sisters experience a rivalry of some kind, some of which extend even well into adulthood. But the competitive nature of siblings is only natural and in most cases, it is harmless. But in the case of May (Phoebe Nicholls) and her sister June (Christine Kavanagh), the competitive drive is far beyond normal. May has always resented her sister, but when they go after the same man, will their rivalry reach a whole new level?
6. The Orchard Walls (51 minutes)- As London is besieged by the perils of war, some have fled the city in order to find peace and safety in the countryside. But even there, some of the darkness has been transplanted into the serene landscape. When a young girl (Honeysuckle Weeks) is sent to the country to escape, will she find the serene locale she expected or does the countryside hold a darker fate for her?
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. These episodes look passable, but aren’t as good as they should be. I noticed a lot of grain and noise throughout, which caused some softness. I would call detail average, but some scenes are quite soft. The colors seem bright, if a little off tint at times, but for the most part, hues look fine. As far as contrast, things are too dark in some instances, but look acceptable in most scenes. In the end, I would say these episodes look decent, but inconsistent.
Audio: How does it sound?
I don’t have much to report here, the stereo soundtracks are fine, but unremarkable. The main element is dialogue, so as long as vocals are clear, that is what matters. Since the dialogue does sound good, with no volumes or harshness concerns, I don’t have any real complaints. The other audio elements sound fine also, but rather limited in scope, due to the nature of the series. So it all sounds fine, but the audio is by no means memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes a profile of Ruth Rendell, as well as some cast biographies.