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Jeux de glaces (Games of Mirrors) is the 1st episode of season 2 of the French TV series Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie. It was produced by Escazal Films and France Télévisions, directed by Eric Woreth and first aired on France 2 on 29 March 2013. It was an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel They do it with Mirrors.

Synopsis

Like the rest of the episodes of season 2 of this series, the original Christie detective characters have been replaced. The lead roles are taken by a French detective Commissaire Swan Laurence assisted by a journalist Alice Avril and Laurence's secretary Marlene. The action is set in Lille in the 1950s. In this episode, Commissaire Laurence arrives at Lille and investigates a series of gruesome murders at a rehabilitation centre for youth. Meanwhile journalist Alice Avril dreams of becoming an investigative reporter and these murders are her big chance.

Plot Summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Etienne and Rose-Marie Bousquet run "La Main Tendue" (the Helping Hand), a rehabilitation young mentally disturbed youth most of whom had committed violent crimes. Also living with the Bousquets are Jacqueline, Rose-Marie's daughter from her first husband, Juliette, an adopted daughter, and her American husband Jimmy White.

Early in the episode, one of the inmates, Marcel, is murdered. Swan Laurence arrives on the scene--he has just been posted to Lille. He notes that Marcel has been killed by someone left-handed. This clears Dede whom everyone thinks is the killer and casts the suspicion on Damien, a left-handed inmate.

Meanwhile, at the newspaper "La Voix du Nord", Alice Avril is bored with her job as the writer of the agony column. The news editor, Jourdeuil, gets instructions from the newspaper owner, Pierre Montauban, not to publish any news about the killing at the rehab centre. Alice overhears this and is intrigued but told not to bother. She is undeterred and goes to see Swan Laurence for a lead. She also wants to investigate what goes on at the rehab centre. Laurence chases her out of the office.

Undeterred, Alice gets a job at "La Main Tendue" as a maid. Meanwhile, Pierre Montauban arrives at the centre. He looks after the business affairs and finances of the place and he wants to speak to Etienne.

That night, the main action scene in the story takes place just like in the original Christie novel. Rose-Marie's family are all gathered in the living room while Pierre Montauban is not with them--he is in another room writing a letter. Léonard Jandel (the Edgar Lawson parallel) bursts into the living room claiming that everyone is laughing at him. Etienne takes him to the office to talk. The family outside hears Léonard threatening Etienne. The lights in the living room go out. Jimmy White goes out to change the fuse. They hear shots in Etienne's office. The lights come on again. Antonin (who has just arrived) comes into the room with Alice. Then Etienne comes out of the office with Léonard. Etienne says the young man has calmed down and that he will be all right.

Alice is sent to call Montauban for dinner and she discovers him slumped over his desk. He has been shot.

Swan Laurence arrives. He is not amused to find Alice working undercover at the centre and has her arrested. The next morning Alice is brought to him. She offers to help him. She can work undercover inside and submit reports. She has noticed things. For example, there was a letter on Montauban's desk when she discovered the body but later when Laurence arrived, the letter had disappeared. Laurence reluctant accepts her help but Alice is delighted that they are now a team.

Laurence questions Etienne about the letter. He admits he took it from Montauban's desk to protect the feelings of his wife. The letter was about Montauban suspecting that someone in the family was planning to murder Rose-Marie. Outside, Laurence takes a bottle of medicine drops for testing and this is found to contain arsenic. He later also intercepts a box of chocolates intended for Rose-Marie which he thinks is also laced with arsenic.

Meanwhile Alice is also doing her own investigations. She tells Laurence that Antonin has no alibi--he entered the living room just as the shots were fired by Léonard but she saw him arriving ten minutes earlier. She also finds Léonard hiding. He tells her he doesn't know how he got the gun. He just found it in his pocket. During her cleaning rounds, Alice discovers another gun, with a silencer, hidden in the piano stool.

Later Alice comes across another body--that of Léonard. He appears to have hanged himself but Laurence examines the neck and realises that he had been strangled before being hanged. Again, none of the have an alibi for his time of death. And as Rose-Marie tells Laurence, all Jacqueline, Juliette and Antonin all stand to inherit from her will.

Alice comes up with an idea to smoke out the killer. It's too dangerous and Laurence forbids it but she goes ahead anyway. She writes anonymous notes and plants them with all the suspects, telling them she knows what they did and her silence has a price and to meet at the barn at 11 pm. She tells Marlene about the time and place of the rendezvous but she forgets to tell Laurence until much later. Laurence arrives at the barn just in time to stop Alice being strangled to death. But her attacker has escaped.

Then next day, Laurence gathers the suspects and reconstructs the scene in the living room during the killing of Montauban. Alice remarks that it is almost like a scene in a play and this gives the inspector an insight. But what's lacking, he says, is a motive. Since he is sure Alice has already looked inside Montauban's suitcase, he asks her what's in it. Only a few accounts books. Intrigued, Laurence takes them back to study.

Meanwhile Alice and Jacqueline get talking. Jacqueline says she had always liked Montauban, but she was too direct on the day he arrived, and what she said caused him to become cold and distant. Suddenly Jacqueline realises she has said too much. She accuses Alice of prying into her affairs and fires her on the spot. Alice leaves the house. At the door she meets Antonin who tells her that Jacqueline is broke. She lost all her money at the stock exchange, trying to impress Montauban about her financial skills. Unfortunately, everyone, including Montauban, was laughing at her behind her back.

Alice has a sudden insight and rushes to Laurence who is too busy studying the ledgers to listen to her. Eventually Alice is allowed to talk and she tells him her theory that Jacqueline killed Montauban--she loved him, he had rejected her. In addition, she needed Rose-Marie's money. Laurence plays along--he will pick her up tomorrow morning to confront the family.

The next morning, Laurence and Alice arrive at the house to find the family at breakfast. Laurence reconstructs the crime for them: how when Etienne was "off stage" with Léonard, Léonard maintained the illusion by shouting his threats loudly while Etienne sneaked out to kill Montauban. He had done this because Montauban had discovered that he had embezzled the centre's funds to fund his project of buying a private island and setting up his rehab experiments there. Laurence arrests Etienne and all seems over.

Laurence and Alice are driving away when Alice comments on what a strange thing love is. Rose-Marie continues to be devoted to her husband even though he is a killer. She seemed so calm when Léonard was threatening Etienne. This causes Laurence to slam the brakes. He hurries back to the house.

Rose-Marie has locked herself in her room and is preparing to take some pills to commit suicide. Laurence arrives in time to stop her. She knew what Etienne had been up to, he says. Rose-Marie confesses. She loved Etienne. He had told her about his problem with Montauban. She then planned everything. They manipulated Léonard into playing his role so that Etienne could shoot Montauban. Later, she had wanted to keep Léonard alive but he was becoming unreliable and might talk so she asked Etienne to kill him also.

Comparison with the original story

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Except for Swan Laurence and Alice Avril as investigators, the plot of the adaptation is remarkably faithful to the original story. The names of all the characters are changed and there are adjustments to their backstories but they are essentially parallels of the those in the original.

  • There are a number of side plots which relate to the inmates of the rehab centre. These are wholly original. Marcel is murdered by Damien near the beginning of the episode. Towards the end, Laurence discovers something about Raoul's past (unelaborated) and he threatens to run him down. Raoul escapes by hijacking Jimmy White's car.
  • Like many other adaptations, Rose-Marie's family tree is simplified.
  • In the original, Miss Marple goes to live with the family. The parallel is Alice Avril who goes in undercover to work as a maid.
  • The preamble to the murder of Montauban (Gulbrandsen) is essentially the same. The family are in the living room, Leonard (Edgar) bursts to confront Etienne (Serrocold) who takes him into a separate room.
  • Leonard also dies later, but in this case, he does not drown while trying to escape, he is actually strangled by Etienne to stop him from talking.
  • Alice mentions to Laurence that the scene in the living room was like a scene in a play. This gives Laurence a crucial insight into how the killing of Montauban was done. In the original, this remark was made by Alexis to Miss Marple. Despite the title, nobody mentions mirrors in the dialogue at any time.
  • Antonin (Alexis) is not killed in this adaptation. In the original, Alexis was getting on the idea that the set up in the living room had been staged and was killed before he reached the correct conclusions. In this adaptation, Antonin had no such insight.
  • The character of Ernie Gregg (who boasted that he knew what had happened--likely without foundation) has no parallel in this adaptation.
  • The key divergence from the original is in the character of Rose-Marie (Carrie Louise). Here she is complicit with Etienne in the killing of Montauban. She loved Etienne and wanted to help him when he confessed to embezzling the her own assets.

Cast

Filming locations

  • Chateau de Souverain-Moulin, Pittefaux, Pas de Calais - the Bousquet halfway house
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