by Kathleen Costa
I am a fanatical Anglophile, and Acorn-TV is one of the best streaming option to satiate my appetite for all things in UK television and movies. They offer current productions as well as providing “blasts from the past” in drama, mystery, comedy, documentary, and full-length movies. For a reasonable monthly or annual fee, I have been able to binge classics and enjoy many award-winning programs from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, and places “down under.” Acorn-TV is also venturing into commissioning their own original productions like a big favorite Agatha Raisin (Season Two), British crime drama London Kills, and the new Queens of Mystery, a “charming, whimsical spin on the classic detective mystery.”
Queens of Mystery earns 5+/5 Raven’s Calling…Clever and Entertaining!
Matilda “Mattie” Stone was “3 days, 3 hours, and 3 minutes into her third year” when she suffered a tragic event…her mother Eleanor disappeared. She was placed into the shared and loving custody of her three aunts: the rebellious Aunt Cat, book smart Aunt Jane, and motherly Aunt Beth. She reveled in staying with Aunt Jane who lived above a crime book shop, Murder Ink, reading well into the early morning, devouring all styles of crime novels, and developing a keen interest in solving murders. So, it isn’t surprising that Mattie Stone grows up to be a detective sergeant stationed in the village in which she grew up, the picturesque Wildemarsh. However, the twenty-five year mystery of her mother’s disappearance is always in her thoughts with niggling clues like the haiku in her mother’s hand, a Bulgarian cigarette, and a single black feather. Importance? She hopes one day to discover that.
DS Stone’s direct supervisor Inspector Derek Thorne is not thrilled she’s been assigned to his department and vows to derail her career should her aunts get involved in any official business. The Stone Sisters have been the proverbial “thorn” in his side, but her aunts are well-known crime writers and use their individual skill sets to insert themselves into Mattie’s cases, sometimes more as a person of interest. They also worry about Mattie’s personal life feeling emboldened to set her up on blind dates. However, Mattie’s eye is on the “already spoken for” coroner Dr. Daniel Lynch, while Police Constable Terry Foster has his eye on Mattie. Together under the shadow of a large white windmill and closely watched by a possibly prophetic raven, they confront all types of murders in what is suppose to be a quiet, country village. Eat your heart out, Midsomer and Carsely!
First, I was immediately engaged by the opening credits with its innovative, brightly colored, pop-up book-style graphics and playful theme song, YouTube – Opening Credits (0:59), along with the mesmerizing tones of narrator Juliet Stevenson…I am so ready for this! Although this clever murder mystery is an original creation by Julian Unthank, it is very reminiscent of the offbeat style of another personal favorite, Agatha Raisin. It features a vivid setting in the English countryside, quirky characters hard not to love, entertaining dialogue that shares “what he wanted to say” humor, and comic twists to the dark themes of jealousy, revenge, and obsession. Each of the three stories is split into two episodes, “First Chapter” and “The Final Chapter,” mirroring that of the crime stories for which the aunts are known. As each story focuses on one of the aunts, Mattie is torn between family and duty.
The cast is brilliant perfectly illustrating the personality of their character through their style, manner, and appearance. Mattie Stone (Olivia Vinall), with her blond hair, wide eyes, and methodical style, is at the center around which the other characters revolve. Aunt Cat (Julie Graham), with her black hair splashed with a striking white streak, is wild like her graphic novels and her rock ‘n roll background, tends to take point in their behind-the-scenes investigations. Aunt Jane (Siobhan Redmond), with her meticulous appearance, red hair, and glasses, is the one to use technology or recognize literary references. Aunt Beth (Sarah Woodward), with her comfy clothes and free-flowing brown hair, offers a calming manner ready with a batch of Mattie’s favorite pasta tuna bake. With all their differences, they are a true family supporting, protecting, and yes, making sure no one ends up in jail.
EPISODE 1-2 Murder in the Dark (Aired 4/8)
Aunts Beth, Cat, and Jane are attending the fifteenth annual Wildemarsh Crime Writers Festival to meet and greet fans and sell a few books. Beth is one of five nominees for the Golden Pickaxe Award, but the surprise winner ends up with the ax award in their head. Matilda’s on the case with strict instructions, according to Inspector Thorne, to keep her “meddling” aunts out of it.
The Final Chapter
Beth Stone, a double murder suspect, has some secrets, lies, and a questionable alibi, and has made no effort to profess her innocence. Wanting to protect Mattie from discovering details about a long-ago visiting Bulgarian academic, the sisters set to find the murderer and hide anything they find about him. However, they run afoul of literary jealousy, hidden family secrets, embezzlement, and blackmail. What crime didn’t happen!
EPISODE 3-4 Death by Vinyl (Aired 4/15)
Matilda’s success solving a double murder has yet to cause Chief Inspector Thorne confidence in her skills, but she is first to be assigned the next case…a missing dog. However, murder just seems to find her anyway. Enter Volcanic Youth! A “past their prime” girl rock band has gathered to record a reunion album, but the same conflicts, jealousies, and a long-kept secret still plagues their relationship. Aunt Cat has a personal interest in their return since, more than thirty years ago, she was the original bass member and close friend of the original lead singer who tragically died. But the new lead singer, diva deluxe, is found strangled.
Matty finds herself on another murder case desperately trying to corral her aunts and appease CI Thorne’s demand the aunts are not involved. But Aunt Cat has a personal connection as well as heart-breaking regrets, so keeping their efforts hidden is a challenge. Especially when the next murder occurs.
EPISODE 5-6 Smoke and Mirrors (Airing 4/22)
First and Final Chapter
One of Aunt Jane’s books is being adapted for production by a local theater group. A famous thespian and his wife come out of retirement to participate. However, a large sandbag falls crushing a cast member, another murder occurs, and someone disappears which again puts DS Stone on the case with her aunts giving their own level of back-up. The Stone Sisters begin their own investigation uncovering too many secrets and lies.
Don’t Miss These Acorn-TV Gems!
The very popular Canadian production of Murdoch Mysteries has all eighteen episodes for their twelfth season available. One of the best seasons yet following the cases, experiments, and relationships of Detective William Murdoch in 1900s Toronto. Have not seen this gem? Don’t worry. The other 168 episodes (2008-2018) for the eleven seasons, Christmas specials, and behind-the-scenes interviews are ready for great binging!
Binge-worthy series Murphy’s Law (Five seasons/23 episodes; 2001-2007) stars James Nesbitt as Detective Thomas Murphy in the gritty, crime drama. Distraught over the death of his daughter as collateral damages in an IRA bombing plot, Tommy moves to London to work undercover assignments for the Metro Police where he uses his specialized skills and Irish humor to bring down all sorts of criminals.
Another big favorite worth repeating is the Scottish gem Hamish MacBeth (Three seasons/20 episodes; 1995-1997). Robert Carlyle plays M.C. Beaton’s title character, the local, unambiguous rural constable patrolling the picturesque highlands. Without relying too closely on the letter of the law, he and the quirky residents of Lochdubh just try to get by.
Learn more about Acorn shows and check out their free trial on their website.
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