Doc On The Box – Jonathan Creek Series Four – Angel Hair

Jonathan Creek 4And so we move on to Season Four of Jonathan Creek. Maddy has now disappeared to the USA with a new love and Jonathan, while still working for Adam Klaus, is roped into helping Carla, ex-theatrical agent, now presenter of a True Crimes TV show, with an impossible crime slot in the show. It seems that things almost happened between Jonathan and Carla after the events of Satan’s Chimney but a typical Renwick misunderstanding split them up. Unfortunately for Jonathan, once things are resolved, it transpires that Carla has gained a husband – a TV producer played by the wonderful Adrian Edmondson.

There were six episodes in the series – no Christmas special this time, but it would return for a few specials, having lost Julia Sawalha but gained Sheridan Smith. I’ll not do a separate post on those, but include them  at the end of this one. For this post, I’ve rewatched Angel Hair, the second episode of the series.

I’ll be honest – there’s a lot of things that I like about this series. The set-up is entertaining – Renwick is clearly venting his spleen on the state of the television industry via the television show – and there is some nice chemistry between Carla and Jonathan. However the shoe-horning of the existing character from the special into the TV presenting job seems odd.

Angel Hair is one of the better episodes from the fourth series – not the best, by any means, but the mystery is simple and solid. There’s a good guest cast – Tamsin Greig, Sophie Thompson, Jack Dee – and the central story is strong. Unfortunately, it seems almost as if Jonathan has been shoe-horned into a different show, as Renwick seems more interested in the story of Jack Dee’s marriage. And at the end of the day, perhaps the mystery is a little too simple. The device is reminiscent of a trick from Series One – although the opposite way round – and at the end of the day, pretty inconsequential.

As for the rest of the series:

The Coonskin Cap – a clever impossible murder but the stuff about the serial killer is pretty lame. And if you fail to spot the murderer, you are a complete chump.

The Tailor’s Dummy – a man changes into someone else in front of a reliable witness’s eyes. The best episode of the series by some distance.

The Seer Of The Sands – a man commits suicide after receiving good news from his lover, and the body then disappears. Add in some psychic gypsies and you’ve got an episode with one clever idea that really isn’t enough to build the rest of it on.

The Chequered Box – a respected police officer is witnessed staring at the hanging body of a lawyer. Again, not enough of a mystery to hang the episode on. Rather dull, unfortunately.

Gorgon’s Wood – a vanishing artefact passes the time until someone finally gets murdered, although not in an impossible way. Not great…

And then we get three more specials with Sheridan Smith as investigator Joey Ross – and finally Jonathan gets to work with someone who has some deductive abilities herself. I think when I get a little more time, I’ll do separate reviews for those, but for now:

The Grinning Man – genuinely creepy and while overlong and probably a bit unbelievable, the central trick is clever and work-outable. Working from memory here – the bit about magician’s assistant was less successful. But given the quality of the previous stories, this was a vast improvement.

The Judas Tree – a nice attempt to tie every event together for once, but some information comes too late in the day to be fair. It’s still streets ahead of the end of series four, but it is all a bit convoluted.

The Clue Of The Savant’s Thumb – already reviewed it here.

So, that concludes my run through of Jonathan Creek to date – although I’ll come back to the Sheridan Smith episodes later on in the year. Fingers crossed for the new series – I just might talk about it here at the weekend.


  1. Must admit that I don’t remember much of this series at all (didn’t help that it was originally split in two) though I liked the chemistry between the two leads (they were an item at the time). GRINNING MAN is definitely too long (but it was meant to be 90 minutes and then came in long so they extended it to an even longer slot, which does hurt it – it was Renwick’s debut, which probably had an impact in this respect).


      • I suspect that he wouldn’t have had the time with a proper series commitment involving several months of production – personally I think that while technically perfectly acceptable, the pacing was off with all of his directorial outings so I at all sorry.


  2. I did not find anything clever in The Coonskin Cap. I regard it as a cheap trick. Such a trick, with suitable variations, can be used to explain practically any locked room murder.
    I did not like Angel Hair. How was [EDITED FOR SPOILERS] so quickly?
    The Tailor’s Dummy is a very good mystery. However, you describe it as,”a man changes into someone else in front of a reliable witness’s eyes.” This is an irrelevant strand introduced for comedy effect.The main plot is that a legendary fashion designer Marco Bergman is seen committing suicide by witnesses——but is it really suicide?


    • Can you be a little more careful with your spoilers, Santosh? That’s the second time that I’ve had to edit a comment recently. Thanks.

      And the impossibility in The Tailor’s Dummy is what the episode is advertised as containing – the murder/suicide isn’t the impossible crime, despite being a very important part of the mystery. It’s hardly the first time that the impossibility isn’t particularly important – Ghosts Forge for example.


  3. I am always careful about spoilers. Unfortunately, often what I do not regard as a spoiler, you regard as a spoiler. Your definition of spoiler seems to be very wide. I fail to understand how what I had written earlier could be construed as a spoiler. It would have been meaningful only to those who have seen the episode. Now, after edition, it has become meaningless to all. It would have been better to delete the entire sentence.
    In The Crimson Fog by Paul Halter, you went to the extent of regarding the cover as a spoiler!
    Anyway, Puzzle Doctor, you need not worry. I write spontaneously and to worry too much whether what I am writing is a spoiler or not would be a headache for me. Hence I have decided not to mention any detail at all of the book or TV episode being reviewed in future.
    Sorry for any inconvenience.


    • I’ll happily admit that I’m ultra sensitive about spoilers – even things such as the identity of a second victim is something I’d prefer not to know. With The Crimson Fog, any hint of where the story is going in the final third should be avoided for the full effect and the front cover is one such hint. I’m not the only blogger to have an issue with this.

      With regards this comment, you did name the person responsible and mentioned a device that was critical to the plot. That’s definitely a spoiler.

      But I’d prefer you commented how you want to comment rather than restricting yourself – I’ll just edit it if necessary.


  4. I found The Seer of The Sands a clever mystery which I enjoyed.
    The two episodes The Chequered Box and Gorgon’s Wood are, in my opinion, simply not worth seeing.
    Though the main mystery in The Grinning Man is clever, the mystery regarding the magician’s assistant is crap.Also, it is too long at 2 hours and often becomes a drag.
    In the Judas Tree, the scheme is too complex and highly dependent on luck to be successful. In fact, here it succeeds only due to several chance happenings like the accidental trapping of the investigators, the actions of the witnesses after the murder, the appearance of a woman at an opportune moment etc (Well, Puzzle Doctor, I do not think that there is any spoiler here, but if due to your spoiler-phobia, you think otherwise, please edit it !)


      • No. But I have seen all episodes of Father Brown 2013 and 2014 and enjoyed very much, though most of the stories are absolutely different from the stories by Chesterton and even the character of Father Brown in the TV serial is totally different from the original Father Brown.


  5. I have seen The Clue of Savant’s Thumb and I am not impressed. There are several plot holes and unanswered questions.
    A complex scheme is planned, heavily dependent on luck and hence unlikely to succeed. The motives for the scheme are very weak.
    Regarding the difference between the photos why did not the Police notice it and infer accordingly? When was the concerned item disposed of?.
    Why was the code note still kept? Wouldn’t it have been destroyed long back?
    There was absolutely no need to introduce the DVD conspiracy business. Instead of being a surprise, it made the episode dull towards the end. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to remove the DVD from the study before Jonathan got hold of it?
    How could one be certain that the chainsaw business would result in death?
    There are other plot holes which are not possible to be stated without becoming spoilers.


  6. My main grouse against the new J.Creek episode is that it contains a major spoiler to the book Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux. The book is a masterpiece with 2 main impossible crimes both with ingenious solutions.The J.Creek episode virtually reveals the main idea behind the first impossible crime. This will be distressing to those who have heard of the book and are intending to read it.


  7. The second new Creek was better than the first…but it could hardly be worse. Even so, it was kind of drab. The central mystery involving the lottery (at least they didn’t give it away this time) was puzzling because the odds against it being coincidence were so overwhelming. Yet unless I’m missing something the ‘solution’ if it can be called that still relied on that same element of chance. I’m trying not to spoil anything but what Jonathan uncovered explained more who did something than overcoming the overwhelming odds against it happening at all, so it wasn’t really much of an ‘explanation’.


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