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Solving Murders is all in the Family on 'Queens of Mystery'
April 8, 2019  | By David Hinckley

Murders don’t exactly become fun on the Brit series Queens of Mystery, but the women solving them sure are.

Queens of Mystery, which becomes available Monday on Acorn, takes newly-minted Detective Sergeant Matilda Stone (Olivia Vinall) through three murder cases, each spanning two episodes.

Vinall, who will be familiar to some viewers from The Woman In White, takes a character who is equally familiar and gives her such a delightful makeover that she feels fresh.

Matilda is young and single, so even though she’s focused on her new career in the police department, those around her scheme constantly to fix what they see as a void in her love life.

She’s aware of the void herself, including the fact that for a lot of lovely people, the match game is hard. In this case, also, her heart doesn’t always send her in the same direction as the well-meaning people around her.

Specifically, those people include her three aunts: Jane (Siobhan Redmond, top), Beth (Sarah Woodward top) and Cat (Julie Graham, top).

They raised her after the still somewhat mysterious disappearance and presumed death of her mother when Matilda was three years old. Actually, her mother disappeared at a more precise moment than that, but explaining it would give away one of the show’s many small delights, a motif of precise numbers.

Finally learning what happened to her mother is among Matilda’s motivations for becoming a detective. The other primary motivation, more visceral, is that all three of her aunts are fiction crime writers. So Mattie spent many of her childhood nights huddled under the covers reading crime fiction. Call it her gateway drug.

While all her aunts care deeply for Mattie and feel a strong family bond, they aren’t entirely the Bronte sisters. For one thing, they have a strong and not always hidden competitive streak, reflecting the fact they have quite different personalities.

Beth has warm motherly instincts. Jane is academic, practical, no-nonsense. Cat can be understood from the tattoos that run up and down her arms, some of them souvenirs from adventures of her youth.

Both family bonds and the desire to be first among equals rise to the surface when Mattie gets her initial case.

Crime writers, as they see it, possess all the skills of detectives, just without the badge. So they plunge in to help Mattie with supplementary investigative work, which can be less helpful than it sounds.  

Seems Matilda’s boss Derek Throne (Martin Trenaman) is familiar with the sisters and long ago became weary of their well-intended assistance.

Meanwhile, we have Constable Terry Foster (Michael Elcock), who has been smitten with Matilda forever, and then we have Dr. Daniel Lynch (Andrew Leung), with whom Matilda has become similarly smitten.  

All this smiting, happily, plays out in a bemused manner that’s in perfect synch with the tone of the aunts’ meddling and Matilda’s own investigative style.

She’s perky in a good way, and that’s something way too rare on television or even in real life. Queens of Mystery cases provide good fun for all – with, okay, the possible exception of the victims.

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