Murders In Small Towns: Angela Lansbury And 'Magpie Murders'

Even if the two are technically unrelated, a TV blogger writing this week about a new detective miniseries about a murder in a small town feels obligated to somehow relate the subject to the news that Angela Lansbury has died.

Lansbury was 96, and was about to turn 97 on October 16. She died in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

She was a star of movies (“Gaslight,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and others) and the musical theater, in which she won six Tony awards.

As well-known as she was in those arenas, she was arguably best known for starring in “Murder, She Wrote,” a decidedly gentle detective series that was a major hit for CBS from 1984 to 1996.

She played Jessica Fletcher, a retired, widowed schoolteacher who took up a successful second career as a mystery author.



In her small (fictional) town of Cabot Cove, Maine, Fletcher insinuated herself in investigations of local murders as an amateur sleuth who solved the mysteries that the stymied local authorities could not.

Lansbury became much beloved and will be well-remembered.

Meanwhile, PBS on Sunday will premiere the first episode of a new, six-part “Masterpiece” miniseries about a mystery author in a small town, this one taking place in England.

One of the big differences between Jessica Fletcher and the author in this show, Alan Conway (played by Conleth Hill), is that Fletcher was well-liked by everyone, while Conway is liked by no one.

Another difference between the two fictional mystery writers: He dies in the first episode of this new miniseries, titled “Magpie Murders.” Jessica Fletcher survived all 12 seasons of “Murder, She Wrote.”

“Magpie Murders” is also the title of Conway’s final book in a best-selling series featuring a detective character named Atticus Pünd.

The problem is that the book is not published yet, and the ink is barely dry on the manuscript when Conway suddenly dies.

In this series, the amateur sleuth who goes to this small town in the English countryside is his editor. Her London-based publishing company largely depends on this one author who has suddenly died under suspicious circumstances.

The editor-turned sleuth is Susan Ryeland (played by Lesley Manville, pictured above). “Magpie Murders” is adapted from a best-selling mystery by Anthony Horowitz.

Horowitz created and wrote “Foyle’s War,” the PBS mystery series about a detective in World War II England that was a personal favorite of the TV Blog.

With “Magpie Murders,” Horowitz and PBS likely have another hit on their hands. It is not to be missed.

Jessica Fletcher would have loved it.

“Magpie Murders” premieres on Sunday (October 16) at 9 p.m. Eastern on PBS.

Next story loading loading..