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Ruth Rendell Mysteries, The (1987-2000)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

"Shake Hands Forever" - Episode 1 tx. 23/9/1988

Robert Hathall collects his mother in London and they catch the train to Kingsmarkham. They wait for his wife Angela to come and collect them, but when she fails to arrive they walk home. Robert goes to see if the car is in the garage while his mother takes her bag to the guest room. When he returns, his mother tells him that she has found Angela's dead body in their bedroom.

Chief Inspector Wexford and Inspector Burden question Robert and his mother. Robert explains that he has recently started a new job in London and that during the week he stays with his mother, only returning home at the weekends. Wexford notes how isolated their house is and how much harder this will make the investigation. Questioning Robert again the next day, he finds him extremely uncooperative. Robert becomes infuriated when Wexford asks if Angela might have given a stranger a lift in her car, insisting that there must be physical evidence to prove a break-in. Robert's mother tells Wexford that she had only seen Angela once during the three years of her marriage to her son. She blames Angela for the break-up of his first marriage and has remained in close contact with his first wife.

Burden confirms that on the day of the murder, Robert was in London all day. He also informs Wexford that the house had only just been cleaned and that there were practically no fingerprints to be found. The only surprise was an unaccounted for hand print found on the edge of the bath, with a distinctive L-shaped scar on the forefinger. The Hathalls' next-door neighbour tells Wexford that in the years the couple had lived there, she never saw them out together and that the couple seemed to have no friends or social life. That day, however, Angela invited her in for coffee for the first time.

The Hathalls' car is found in London, but has been wiped clean of any prints and thoroughly washed. Robert is clearly shocked when Wexford tells him about the hand print, but says he has no idea how it got there or who it belongs to. Wexford finds a book on Celtic languages and asks to borrow it. Wexford later tells Burden that he is convinced that Robert, despite his cast-iron alibi, is responsible for the murder of his wife.