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We’ve said it many times, but it’s worth repeating: We’re amazed at how enduring Agatha Christie‘s novels have been given that she wrote her final novel in 1973. The mysteries she wrote have not only become a template for modern mysteries to follow, but the stories themselves have been easily modified — whether it’s story elements or the setting — for modern tastes. A new adaptation takes an 85-year-old Christie novel and makes it relatable to modern-day viewers, simply by making a change to the main character.

Opening Shot: A man stares at a stretch of woods, then looks behind him. He holds a wooden statue. Then he starts running.

The Gist: The man drops the wooden figure and sees it catch on fire. Then we see that Luke Fitzwilliam (David Jonsson) is thinking about that moment while on a ship taking him to England from his home country of Nigeria. On the train to London, an older woman named Lavinia Pinkerton (Penelope Wilton) gets on and sits across from him. She finds out that he was an attaché for a British government representative, and when his boss got a job in the governmental hub in Whitehall, Fitzwilliam decided to follow.

Miss Pinkerton talks to Fitzwilliam about how she’s going to London to report a series of homicides in her home village of Wychwood-under-Ashe. The people in town are dismissing them as accidents, but she knows who actually killed them. “Murder is easy for a certain type of person,” Pinkerton tells him when he asks how that person has not been discovered.

When they disembark in London, on the day of the Epson Derby, she tells him to make a bet on a 40-1 horse. She picks more winners than losers, and the longshot she picked came from behind to win. When he goes to give her her winnings, though, Pinkerton is hit by a car that kills her and speeds away.

He wants to give the money to someone back in Wychwood-under-Ashe, and he feels that Pinkerton’s death was murder. So, with a few days before he starts his new job, he takes the train up to the village; the first place he goes is the inquest into the deaths of the two victims Pinkerton talked about; the first person he meets is Bridget Conway (Morfydd Clark); he tells her he’s a cultural anthropologist doing a book on superstitions.

When he’s invited to a dinner held by Lord Whitfield (Tom Riley), whose family founded the village, he finds out that Bridget is the aristocrat’s fiancée and that she invited him. Putting up with the various racial biases from the guests — Whitfield thinks Fitzwilliam grew up in a “mud hut” in Nigeria — he tells the horrified guests that Pinkerton was killed.

He decides to remain in town to investigate further, thinking that the person who killed the other people killed Pinkerton. But as more people die, he starts to zero in on Dr. Thomas (Mathew Baynton), the village’s physician, who seems to give a different level of care to the town’s wealthy than he does to its working class population, and seems to ascribe to a philosophy that Fitzwilliam finds abhorrent. In the meantime, Bridget, intrigued by Fitzwilliam and the reason why he’s really in town, helps him with the investigation.

Photo: BritBox

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? How many hours of Agatha Christie adaptations are on BritBox and various other streaming outlets? Millions, as it turns out, so we’ll pick two recent adaptations for comparison: The ABC Murders and Ordeal By Innocence.

Our Take: By making the main character of Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy, Luke Fitzwilliam, from Nigeria, Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre, who adapted the 2-part series from Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel, changes the dynamics of the show quite a bit. The original Fitzwilliam was stationed in India, but is decidedly white. This version of Fitzwilliam has to battle with not fitting in pretty much anywhere he goes, and he’s immediately viewed with suspicion in a place like Wychwood-under-Asche.

That aspect of the adaptation gives the story’s haves-vs.-have-nots theme a bit more depth. The story becomes more than just about the village’s working class population being picked off one-by-one and the wealthy members of the town being dismissive and uncaring about those deaths. It’s about how Fitzwilliam itself fits in that structure. When he hangs out with his fellow West Africans in London, more than one of them point out how he’s Anglicized himself, but to most of the people he’s around, he represents what used to be called “The Dark Continent” by the various European colonizers who occupied Nigeria and other countries.

So, even though the series takes place in the early 1950s (about 15 years after its original setting), making Fitzwilliam Nigerian immediately modernizes the story. Jonsson communicates Fitzwilliam’s confidence in spite of the obstacles he faces on a daily basis.

The story is a bit heavy on talking and light on murder in the first hour, to the point where things start to drag a bit. Some of the side characters, like Reverend Humbleby (Mark Bonnar), the town vicar, and his family, are a bit underdeveloped. But that’s generally how all Christie mysteries go. Some of the group are suspects, some are victims. Things don’t really gel between Fitzwilliam and Bridget until close to the end of the first hour, where they start to pull together in trying to get somewhere with the investigation, but the chemistry between Jonsson and Clark is fun to watch.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Another village resident becomes a victim, this being one that straddles both the working class and wealthy populations of the town.

Sleeper Star: Mark Bonnar, who plays Reverend Humblebly, always has an understated but significant presence in whatever he does, which we’ve been noticing at least since he stole scenes in Catastrophe.

Most Pilot-y Line: The “mud hut” line was pretty cringeworthy, but Fitzwilliam does get his comeuppance when he points out that his family were landowners in Nigeria. It might be a way for Ejiwunmi-Le Berre to point out the not-so-subtle racism in much of Christie’s work.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy modernizes an 85-year-old text simply by changing the nationality of its main character, and it makes the story a whole lot less creaky as a result.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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