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Ruth Rendell Mysteries, The (1987-2000)

Main image of Ruth Rendell Mysteries, The (1987-2000)
TVS & Meridian for ITV, 02/08/1988-
45x60 min, 2x90 min, 2x120 min, colour
ProducersNeil Zeiger
 John Davies
 Phillippa Giles
 Jacky Stoller
Author of Original WorkRuth Rendell

Cast: George Baker (Det Ch Insp Wexford); Christopher Ravenscroft (Det Insp Burden); Louie Ramsay (Dora Wexford)

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Detective Chief Inspector Reg Wexford and his assistant Inspector Mike Burden investigate crimes in the Hampshire town of Kingsmarkham.

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Inspector Wexford first appeared in the 1964 novel From Doon with Death and, according to his creator Ruth Rendell, was "born at the age of 52". His first TV appearance, in the shape of the then 55 year-old George Baker, came in August 1987, with the ITV serialisation of Wolf to the Slaughter. This four-part pilot, produced by John Davies and adapted by Clive Exton, set the template for all subsequent Wexford adaptations that has remained largely unchanged. The main exception is the music: Marc Wilkinson wrote the somewhat heavy-handed score for the pilot, while Brian Bennett has provided all the subsequent music, including its memorably jaunty theme tune.

Set in the fictional town of Kingsmarkham, the series was actually filmed on location in Romsey, Hampshire. Initially the episodes were made entirely on video and paced somewhat languidly, following the style employed by Davies for his highly successful series of PD James adaptations starring Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgiesh. As the series became more successful, however, the decision was made to shoot Wexford on film, to make it glossier and faster paced. This was further emphasised in later editions when Wexford travelled to London, France and even as far as China. George Baker is near perfectly cast as the well-educated, intelligent but frequently abrasive, crotchety and combative policeman. Although a traditional family man, Wexford seems a positive radical when compared with his decidedly puritanical assistant Mike Burden, uncompromisingly played by Christopher Ravenscort. Although prone to quick moral judgements, especially about young or unorthodox people, the ultra-conventional (and appropriately named) Burden is not without humour and frequently provides genuine insight for the solution of cases.

Most episodes foreground Wexford and Burden's domestic complications, with Burden's wife Jean (Ann Penfold) appearing throughout the first series. By the beginning of series two, Burden is a widower, left alone to cope with his two young children, John and Emma. In series three he meets Jenny Ireland (Diane Keen), his daughter's history teacher, and the two eventually marry.

George Baker wrote three scripts for the Wexford series, and one for the umbrella series, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. After the death of his first wife, in 1993 Baker married Louie Ramsay, who plays his on-screen wife Dora.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. A difficult interview (2:30)
2. Physical evidence (3:00)
3. Pub lunch (4:13)
Complete episode: 'Shake Hands Forever' - Part 1 (20:39)
Part 2 (12:11)
Part 3 (18:11)
Goddard, Jim (1936-2013)
Preston, Trevor
TV Police Drama
TV Sleuths