Sullen Sleuth Returns to PBS

Far more reserved a detective than Lord Peter Wimsey, Adam Dalgliesh will surely be slower to take his place alongside Dorothy Sayers' amateur sleuth in the hearts of PBS viewers.

Where Wimsey was witty, P.D. James' Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) is the stolid sort. Where Wimsey had an off-to-the-races bravado, Dalgliesh approaches his cases with the apparent enthusiasm of a bloodhound who'd rather dream about the quarry than pursue it. That's truer than ever in the six-parter starting tonight, "The Black Tower" (9 p.m., Channel 28).

Those who've seen previous Dalgliesh adventures on PBS' "Mystery," however, know how he can grow on one in his own way. They also know that the James series has a lot in common with the Sayers one: intelligent production, direction, pacing and acting, and the thrill of the superbly structured chase--qualities exemplified in the new entry.

This time the Scotland Yard detective is even more quiet and sullen than usual. In fact, suffering from a gunshot wound and job burnout, he shows up only briefly in tonight's first episode, which mostly establishes the murder scene into which he will eventually walk: an unusual seaside nursing home (upon whose grounds the tower of the title sits) full of eccentric--and, of course, suspicious--characters.

It's a delightfully intriguing hour, and next week Dalgliesh and another important character, played by Art Malik (who was Hari Kumar in "The Jewel in the Crown"), enter full force. There's not much point in saying more about a mystery as delicious as this one, except to recommend tuning in. Even if you do prefer your detectives more Wimsey-cal, chances are you'll find a lot to like about the dogged Dalgliesh and the wonderful web P.D. James and her adapters have woven around him.

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