2/1: The Ghost in the Machine

They’d be a proper gang if Mrs McCarthy hadn’t stridently worn blue.

A new series! And an ominous start with a desperate request for an exorcism. Is Charlotte McKinley being haunted by her long-lost-presumed-dead sister Elspeth?

There’s no such thing as ghosts, Father Brown insists. Though, by the time the chandelier has dive-bombed from the ceiling, he’s willing to get out the prayer books and the candles.

Elspeth had disappeared several years earlier, and there are two rival strands of gossip. The Mrs McCarthy camp insists that Charlotte’s husband, Victor, dunnit – and he had indeed been suspected by the police at the time. The Lady Felicia camp, however, maintain that she eloped with a village lover.

It all gets murkier when Charlotte herself mysteriously vanishes; one moment sat by the fire quietly reading the history of Kembleford, the next but a dent in an armchair.

Victor isn’t looking rosy when it emerges that he has the keys to the sitting room windows, nor when his daughter finds a stash of sedatives he’d hidden hastily. Soon enough, Inspector Trenchcoat has come for him.

Then again, there’s Lady Felicia. Not that she dunnit, but she was doing something. Like a well-dressed French farce, she’s first given Victor an alibi by ‘fessing up to a rendezvous … then recanted and admitted that she was actually with the handyman, arrested once it emerges that he was Elspeth’s village lad. Cue some great nonchalantly admiring a spot on the wall expressions from Father Brown.

The problem is The Body – or bodies. Neither Charlotte nor Elspeth before her have fetched up as a corpse. When a jewellery-adorned skeleton is uncovered in the house foundations, it looks like one sister has returned.

But – spanner + works – it turns out the skeleton is male. Father Brown figures out that the jewellery is a rosary, and now we have a romp through secret priest holes.

I want to welcome in the new series by nitpicking at the priest hole plot. There is a tunnel that ends up in Father Brown’s church. If the church was that old, it could not be a Catholic church – it would be CofE (and a furtive Catholic priest who tried to effect an escape by popping out in front of its altar would be completely daft). Oh, well.

Things learnt this episode:

  • Never hide morphine in the cat food.
  • You can find all sorts of things in a priest hole.
  • It’s easy to fake a ghost at home – simply move something and claim you didn’t.
  • No-one will mention that Susie is not appearing in this series. (Things not learnt: who will mop the presbytery floors?)
  • Lady Felicia really does need a diary to keep track of the swathes of soirees and secret flings.