WHY CAN’T TV EVER STICK TO THE ORIGINAL?
THERE has been a murder most foul – and in the eyes of Agatha Christie’s devoted fans there is only one suspect.
No need to gather in the library for a brilliant explanation from a Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.
The barely recognisable victim is Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence, slashed to ribbons by TV writer Sarah Phelps for the BBC.
Established stories are often tweaked, but Phelps took a hatchet to the queen of crime’s 1958 work.
The Sunday night threeparter was dramatic and tense but Christie fans accuse her of supreme arrogance for tampering with the original.
The evidence is overwhelming – but you need to pay attention.
In Christie, Rachel was murdered by housemaid Kirsten, persuaded by the victim’s “delinquent” son Jacko, who seduced middle-aged women and fleeced them for cash.
Rachel had refused to pay his debts so Jacko convinced besotted Kirsten to steal Rachel’s money and kill her.
But Jacko’s plan fell apart when Dr Calgary, his intended unwitting alibi, was hit by a car and suffered amnesia.
Calgary read about the murder months later in an old paper and Jacko was hauled off to jail. Kirsten, realising she was being strung along did not speak up for Jacko, who died in jail after six months of pneumonia.
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirsten kills again to protect herself, stabs another character and frames Mickey.
Somehow, Calgary manages to work out the truth. But in Phelps’ version, the plot is thickened with some darker themes. Jack was Kirsten’s son, not lover. Leo kills wife Rachel when she threatens to divorce him over an affair, leaving him skint. Leo is also Jack’s father, having forced himself on Kirsten when she was 15, making him both a paedophile and a rapist.
Rachel agreed to adopt the baby but vowed never to tell Jack the truth – a promise she then broke.
Leo killed another and, in a dark twist, had his own son bumped off in prison to prevent him from revealing his tryst with Kirsten.
Kirsten finally works out whodunnit – with an ancient Egyptian statue – in Leo’s office. And Leo is supposed to have killed himself.
Would Agatha Christie have approved? That’s a mystery. But she’s hardly the first to have her work changed for TV, as these show...
CHANGE Maid Kirsten was the original Christie killer GRIM FATE Rachel lies in pool of blood