The work of Agatha Christie has been adapted so many times and by many different directors and screenwriters over the years. There is often some kind of effort made towards retelling the same Christie stories again and again, with different productions. What happens when a series comes along that tries to simultaneously stick to the plotlines of the mysteries themselves - the center-piece element of Agatha Christie's stories - while also bringing in new characters to solve the mysteries, within a French setting, and a slant that is a more modern look at a bygone time period? The result is the fairly recent television production known as Les Petits meurtres D'Agatha Christie (translated into English as "The Little Murders of Agatha Christie").
The writers are essentially tells the same stories Christie wrote from their mystery plot-line element, so the basic mechanics of how it might unfolds remains relatively the same. Yet the execution of these ideas is a lot different, perhaps to the point that not all of Christie's fans will enjoy this adaptation. After all, Poirot certainly is one of the most popular mystery character's of all time but is nowhere to be found here. Instead, the writers of this series have come up with two primary characters for the show: Larosiere and Lampion.
Larosiere is the superintendant investigator and Lampion is his much-younger sidekick investigator who helps out a lot on the different escapades. The pair make an interesting duo. In working on cases, Larosiere seriously refers to the work he does as listening to an orchestration but with missing a note. He's a bit philosophical in his approach and views his work as a artistic endeavor in some respect. Lampion, on the other hand, has a more hands-on and literal approach. Both have their own distinctive ideas and sometimes this helps them as one happens to grasp one concept the other doesn't and it makes for a good dynamic as they work together. Despite being a mostly serious team, they both happen to have a good element of free-spiritedness which helps in their solving the mysteries with a light touch of humor along the way (some of this being a result derived from the witty writing style and some of it from mannerisms of these offbeat characters).
The style of the series is generously effective and is (naturally!) very French. This series takes on some of the approaches one would expect from a French production instead of a traditional British one. Given that the series was made in France, the characters are all French and some of the situations are orchestrated a bit differently given the fact that there are cultural differences that exist. These elements offer a slightly different spin on the stories as well.
The fashion is notably French and is certainly much different from any other Christie production I have seen before. I appreciated the costume designs and the way in which these high standard production elements helped to add flair to the series. The stylistic scenery, locations, and sets utilized are all high quality and added to the effectiveness of the storytelling.
The music is also a bit upbeat and fascinating in its tempo and orchestration. There is also an animated opening for the series primary credits, which has creative animated versions of the primary characters. The end credits also conclude with a selection of audio quotes from the episode (highlighting some of the most memorable parts). These aspects are creative and refreshing.
The direction and writing is strong for the series. With a element of good flow and rhythm, Les Petits meurtres D'Agatha Christie manages to be an enjoyable series with appropriately handled storytelling pacing and the stories unfolding with a sort of entertaining ease that makes following these mysteries a blast for many Christie fans. There are a lot of good stylistic camera shots and creative bits of dialouge to keep the characters intriguing.
If there is any downside to this collection, it's that the last episode on this release skips ahead to a new detective team that was utilized later on in the series run. The show has actually been on air for a while with a few episodes a year since 2009. Les Petits meurtres D'Agatha Christie is still in production. The episodes are not entirely presented in order, a few episodes were skipped (and are perhaps going to appear on Set 2?) while not everything here is even in order. These are some unfortunate drawbacks to the release but for the most parts fans of mysteries should enjoy this program and will find it has strongly written characters, exceptional grade performances, and enough of a mixture of new ideas and fan-favorite stories that it maintains an interesting approach which manages to work quite well.
The 1.78:1 original television broadcast aspect ratio is kept intact for the presentation of these episodes. The colors are well reproduced with a good degree of accuracy and the show has a sleek, modern style to it that is a result of the higher production standards. The encoding is a success too. The episodes look splendid and have been properly spread across 4 DVD's. The release certainly does a solid job representing the intended aesthetic look of the series.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio is entirely adequate at reproducing the dialogue, the music score, and the occasional sound effects. This isn't a complex sound design but it sounds reasonably crisp and is easy to follow. The series is presented with the original French audio and with English subtitles. The subtitles are of great quality and should be easy enough for viewers to read and understand.
There are no extras on this release.
Les Petits meurtres D'Agatha Christie is an inventive and quality French program that adapts the works of Agatha Christie in a way that (to my knowledge) has not really be done before. While this is certainly not a series every Christie fan will appreciate given creative liberties that are taken, there's a high probability that many fans of her famous mysteries will still find a lot to appreciate here. The characters are interesting. The series has a certain kind of charm to it and the humor helps to set the production apart. This adaptation of Christie mysteries (being told with a new spin) works as a worthwhile series that fans of mysteries should certainly consider checking out.