“When in doubt, Geoffrey, head for the sound of gunfire.” – Hetty Wainthropp (Patricia Routledge in Hetty Wainthrop Investigates)

A strange comment from anyone, but even more so from a proper British housewife. However, Hetty Wainthrop is anything but proper. Upon turning sixty, Hetty realizes that she isn’t entitled to a pension – she’s two years short. She rejects old age by taking a job as a clerk. The mundane job turns up a mystery, and Hetty soon acquires a new calling as a private investigator, and an assistant in Geoffrey, a teenaged attempted shoplifter (Dominic Monaghan.) Hetty and Geoffrey are joined by Hetty’s husband Robert (Derek Benfield) in solving several mysteries, and eventually earn acclaim and the respect of the local police.

The series is set in England, and Hetty is the classic middle-class, common sense grandmother. She has the experience to read people well, although in some areas she’s quite naive. Her idealism leads her to become a surrogate mother to Geoffrey, where her optimism pays off handsomely. The chemistry between the three actors is excellent. As Geoffrey becomes part of the family, and eventually a partner in the detective agency, there are many funny and touching moments as they adjust to their new roles in each other’s lives.

The mysteries are predictable, but because they are small-scale personal stories with intriguing characters, the show is enjoyable. Hetty enjoys a moral clarity seldom seen these days – sometimes wrong but never in doubt – and occasionally gets up on her soapbox where social issues are concerned. It is her caring and concern that drive her to solve the mysteries; while Robert is focused on the bottom line, Hetty wants to help people. Hetty’s undercover work is often very funny, although the writers missed quite a few opportunities there.

The video quality is unimpressive. Still, I recommend it to those who would enjoy a light, fun “British amateur sleuth” series where the characters really make the show.

The set also includes Missing Persons, the pilot episode based on the book by David Cook. For more information or to buy Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, visit Acorn Media.

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