Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie is a French TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's murder novels and short stories. The stories are set in 1930s (and 1950s in the second era) Northern France.
The series has two sets of main characters and era: Commissaire (equivalent of DCI in Britain) Jean Larosière and Inspecteur (DI) Emile Lampion in 1935-1939, and Commissaire Swan Laurence and reporter Alice Avril in 1955-1962. The setting update was made when the two actors playing Larosière and Lampion left the series. There are 11 90-minutes-long episodes in the first era and 16 (so far) in the second.
The show comes from a 2006 TV adaptation of Hercule Poirot's Christmas, called Petits meurtres en famille, for which the characters of Larosière and Lampion were created. They proved so popular that the producers decided to continue telling stories with them. While Petits meurtres en famille has some Early Installment Weirdness (it happens in 1939, in Brittany instead of Northern France, and it's the first time Lampion works with Larosière), the ending (with Larosière being unmasked as the murderer and an illegitimate son of the old man who was killed) makes it fall squarely into Continuity Snarl.
The series in general provides examples of the following tropes:
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: A staple of Christie's.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie.
- Screaming Woman: A Once an Episode staple when a corpse is discovered. In the second era, Alice and Marlène are not exempt of this trope.
The 1930s era:
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: A few episodes make it personal for the heroes:
- Le Flux et le Reflux (Taken at the Flood): Larosière's former CO from the war and mentor dies; he takes it so hard that it takes most of the episode before he snaps out of his Heroic BSoD.
- La Plume Empoisonnée (The Moving Finger) begins with Lampion getting shot very seriously during a police operation.
- Adaptational Location Change: The show is setting Agatha Christie's stories in the Northern France.
- Busman's Holiday: Or Busman's Convalescence for Lampion in La Plume Empoisonnée (The Moving Finger). Someone has been sending letters accusing the village's notables of all sorts of horrible things for weeks before he arrives, and a murder is committed a couple of days after.
- By-the-Book Cop: Emile. Larosière has a stronger tendency to think outside the box.
- Book Dumb: Played with with Lampion, who is smart and interested in new sciences and techniques (like profiling), but often fails to recognise the classical poetry and literature Larosière is fond of quoting.
- Clear Their Name: The Body in the Library is adapted as "A Body on [his] Pillow", in which Larosière wakes up with the mother of all hangovers and a dead woman he doesn't know in his bed. Lampion and he spend the episode trying to figure out what happened.
- Disappeared Dad: Lampion mentions once that he never knew his father.
- Disguised in Drag: Emile in "Je ne suis pas coupable", in order to infiltrate a feminist meeting. Not as quite Played for Laughs as the trope usually plays out.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: The context of this season. Partly deconstructed, as the series doesn't shy away from the racism, homophobia and other Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Larosière can be quite charming and is rather vastly learned in literature, poetry and theatre. Several characters (especially upper-class people) express their surprise at seeing a police detective with such a large classical culture.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Averted with Larosière, who fought in World War I but is well adjusted to civilian life. It takes the death of his former commanding officer to trigger memories of how hellish the trenches were.
- Straight Gay: Emile.
The 1950s era:
- A Friend in Need: Alice and Marlene usually help each other, sometimes while Laurence is working alone.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Marlene has a crush on Laurence, but he hardly notices it.
- Amateur Sleuth: Laurence never misses an opportunity to remind Avril that she's this, not official police.
- Asshole Victim: Alexandre Protheroe in "L'Affaire Protheroe".
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: in the first episode, as in the rest of the series Laurence never lets pass an occasion to put Alice down or insult her. But when at the end of the episode he finds out that her editor has put his own byline on the article she wrote he wordlessly stomps in the editor's office and bitchslaps him off his chair.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In episode six "Cartes sur table" a man is murdered in Laurence's apartment with Laurence's own pistol and he has no alibi. To avoid being suspended from the case he asks Alice to pretend to have had a dalliance with him that night. She plays along but in front of Marlène and the commissaire divisionaire she gives the story her twist: under the pretext of discussing the case Laurence had brought her to a dark country road where he had attempted to have his way with her, asked if she wants to press charges she answers that she found him so pathetic and vulnerable that she took pity on him and when asked if that was at the time of the murder she says no, that it was much earlier but you know how it is with men of a certain age, they don't last very long and that afterward Laurence had fallen asleep, all the while impishly glancing at a glaring Laurence.
- Big Damn Heroes: Subverted in Jeux de Glace (They Do It With Mirrors): Laurence hears Avril scream, finds her struggling against a big, mean-looking guy, and Curb Stomps him into unconsciousness. Avril is not impressed; she'd stumbled across a body and subsequently freaked out, and the big guy was just trying to calm her down.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Promotional teasers for the show feature the main cast telling when the next season will begin.
- There are also bonus videos where the main cast meets their own characters. The actors explain that they play the characters but the characters disagree.
- Breakout Character: The second era was meant to be about the new duo of Laurence and Avril, like the previous one was about Larosière and Lampion, but Marlène, Laurence's secretary, proved so popular in the first couple of episodes that the rest of the series is centred on the trio instead.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: In reply to one of Laurence's meanest, most cruel insults, Alice grins and says, "One day, I'll rip out your heart - with an oyster fork".
- Deadpan Snarker: Laurence.
- Disguised in Drag: Laurence dresses as a woman in the episode "L'Homme au complet marron" in order to pass himself as a secretary.
- The Ditz: Marlene. She's well aware of it.
- Dumb Blonde: Downplayed with Marlène. She's not very bright, but even the super-smart Laurence finds her more endearing than annoying.
- Evil Counterpart: Marlène's sister Solange is the exact contrary of her. As Marlène is the nicest person on the show, Solange is the most despicable. However it is proved they both share physical similarities through Solange's death while she was disguised as Marlène, and how everyone thought it was really Marlène.
- Fiery Red Head: Alice.
- Friend on the Force: Avril thinks she's this to Laurence, who originally considers her a nuisance and doesn't get much better.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Blond-haired Marlene is arguably the kindest character in this season.
- I Work Alone: The reason why Laurence refuses to work with an inspector under him in the first episode. In the same (first) episode he uses Marlène as a sounding board and Alice triggers a "Eureka!" Moment. Gradually they get more and more involved in his investigations.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Laurence is usually cold and snarky towards Alice, but he can be willing to help her during difficult times.
- Master of Disguise: Avril and Marlene sometimes have to disguise or use a fake identity in order for an investigation to progress.
- Mistaken for Dying: Alice has a scooter accident at the start of "Albert Major parlait trop" and has to spend most of the episode in a hospital. At some point, her doctor gets her file mixed up with that of a cancer patient, and tells Marlène and Laurence (her next-of-kin) that she's not long for this world. Them taking it badly is both Played for Laughs and for drama.
- Missing Mom: Alice is an orphan, and the reason her last name is "Avril" is that she was abandoned as a baby and given to the Assistance Publique as a Doorstop Baby one April 1st. She's reunited with her mother in "La Mystérieuse affaire de Styles", only for her mother to be murdered.
- Morality Pet: No matter how cynical and cutting Laurence is with practically everyone, he is mostly polite and kind to Marlene. Her apparent murder sends him in a deep Heroic BSoD.
- Mythology Gag: In "Pension Vanilos", the Scotland Yard official with whom Laurence is collaborating over a drug-trafficking investigation is named Japp.
- Not So Stoic: Commissaire Laurence is usually a cool-tempered Deadpan Snarker and a Smug Snake. When he finds the body of his secretary (apparently), though, he just crumbles from the inside and ends up getting drunk with a tearful Alice and reminiscing.
- Power Trio: Laurence, Alice and Marlene.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Laurence was transferred from the Quai des Orfèvres, in Paris (more or less equivalent to (New) Scotland Yard) to Lille because his investigations annoyed some politicians. He makes it clear this is a big step down for him.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Alice Avril is the Red to Laurence's Blue. Their costumes even lampshade this; Avril wears a red leather jacket and Laurence's suit is usually blue.
- Replacement Goldfish: Literally. In the episode "Crimes haute couture", Laurence accidentally kills Marlene's pet goldfish Bubulle by feeding him liquorice. He buys a new one before Marlene becomes aware, but she notices the slight differences between Bubulle and other goldfishes.
- Significant Double Casting: Marlene's sister Solange is played by Elodie Frenck, who happens to play Marlene!
- Temporary Blindness: Laurence spends most of "Meurtre à la kermesse" blind from PTSD (from getting shot in the head).
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted in Jeux de Glace (They Do It with Mirrors): The scene ends just after Avril tells Laurence she has a foolproof plan, cutting to other characters, then comes back to them just in time for Laurence to forbid her from going through with her plan (which he says is idiotic). Avril intended to pretend to blackmail the murderer to find out who he was. She's almost killed and he gets away.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Laurence and Avril, with an extra serving of vitriol. Laurence is probably the coldest, meanest Deadpan Snarker in the history of French television.