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Life as a private detective begins at 60 for sprightly Lancashire housewife Hetty Wainthropp. Her newly retired husband, Robert, thinks she ought to be winding down with him, but Hetty takes a job to make ends meet and accidentally discovers her natural gift for sleuthing. Finding an eager sidekick in destitute teenager Geoffrey Shawcross, Hetty sets up her own detective agency, puts her sensible pumps to the pavement, and proves she has what it takes to be a gumshoe of distinction.
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Mystery buffs and Anglophiles will find Hetty Wainthropp to be delightful and uniquely entertaining company. Hetty has just turned 60, but she is not about to "ride serene into the evening tide," as her doting husband so poetically puts it. "I'm not 60 and I never will be," Hetty proclaims. "I'm not a senior citizen." Hetty wants to matter, so she gets a job at her local Lancashire post office. But that wouldn't make for much of a miniseries. Before you can say "cheeky monkey," she has involved herself in a deadly case of pension-fund fraud, and made a splash on the front pages as a "Super Gran Sleuth." The redoubtable Patricia Routledge, best known as Hyacinth Bucket on the beloved Britcom Keeping Up Appearances), does lovely work as Hetty, who first appeared in David Cook's 1986 novel, Missing Persons. Cook co-wrote the six first-season episodes contained on this three-disc set. Two of the episodes, "Fingers" and "A Higher Profile," did not air during this miniseries' original presentation on the PBS series Mystery. Hetty is not as quaint as Miss Marple, nor her cases as seamy as Jane Tennison's Prime Suspect mysteries. She is a formidable character in her own right, opening her own private detective agency, and recruiting a 17-year-old shoplifter (Dominic Monaghan from the Lord of the Rings trilogy) to be her "devoted sidekick." A rogue cop, a roving arsonist, and other unsavory characters are no match for the woman who won't rest until things add up. As one police inspector grudgingly admits, "She's an extraordinary woman. She's no Miss Marple, but...." But, indeed. --Donald Liebenson
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