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Mystery! Devices and Desires

You have to be presold on this season’s premiere installment of Mystery! That is to say, if you’re not already a fan of P.D. James’ mystery novels, you’re likely to find the opening episode of Devices and Desires (based on the British author’s most recent, 1990 novel) confusing and tedious.

Once again, Roy Marsden stars as Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh. This time out, the lanky, moody policeman investigates a series of murders committed in the contemporary Norfolk countryside. It’s an interesting idea — a rural serial killer called the Whistler — and the grisly, sexual nature of the Whistler’s crimes are an intriguing departure for both James and the mannerly Mystery! series. But director John Davies stuffs his first hour with so many characters — victims, suspects, and walk-on eccentrics — that it’s almost impossible to keep track of who’s who. One result is that our hero Dalgliesh receives minimal screen time. That’s not an inviting way to commence a six- part series.

You’ll have to trust me: Devices and Desires gets significantly better as it goes along, but this week’s show is very slow going. B-

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