Guest column by Alice Maltin

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Always late to the ball, I’ve just completed watching Foyle’s War (sets 1–6). Given the state of the economy, this is a great way to travel to the U.K., for the cost of a DVD set or Acorn TV subscription, while remaining in the comfort of your own home.

I first saw Michael Kitchen in a British TV miniseries called The Brontes of Haworth.  He played the famous siblings’ brother, Branwell, and you’d have been hard pressed to recognize him. It was 1973 and clearly he had just graduated high school. I did have to look twice.

Here, he’s detective chief superintendent Christopher Foyle in the seaside town of Hastings. The series covers the years 1940 to 1945. War seems far away from this village where the sea is calm and the meadows are a lush green…but it isn’t. Not with a German prisoner of war camp nearby, abundant food shortages, profiteers, spies both suspected and real, and military cover-ups. That’s only for starters. The series is a window into civilian life during WWII. We know the British were famous for “carrying on,” but what was it like to survive each day? You pray for loved ones to return in one piece (or just return) and go about your daily lives as if there isn’t the constant threat of a German invasion.   

Yet even in this beautiful setting there’s always a murder or two to be solved, and Christopher Foyle fights his own battle to protect Hastings and its people. He’s quietly tough, rather humorless at times, and straight-talking. He cannot be bought and has little use for people who try. He won’t be bullied and remains dogged in his search for the truth. That said, he’s quite likeable, for all his trying not to be. His cheerful, smart female driver (played by Honeysuckle Weeks—I love that name) offers a perfect counterpoint to his no-nonsense view on life. He’s also patient with his young sergeant (Anthony Howell), who has much to learn from this mentor.

As a film buff, it’s always fun to spot character actors—some just beginning when this series was shot, others well established. For me, it’s sort of a game to pick out  Edward Fox, Robert Hardy, Rosamund Pike, Charles Dance, Phyllida Law (Emma Thompson’s mother), Tim Pigott-Smith, Corin Redgrave, Amanda Root, Bill Paterson, Samuel West (Timothy’s son), Angela Thorne, and James Wilby.  In my family we believe these actors are the spice of any  series that make it more interesting…even if they turn out to be killers. 

For well written detective stories set in England with unexpected twists and turns, do visit DCS Foyle. You won’t be disappointed; you might even catch our man cracking a smile or two.  Just don’t expect him to enjoy himself…but you will.