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A Guilty Thing Surprised: Part One 

When Elizabeth Nightingale is murdered, DCI Wexford has to sort his way through quite a number of suspects - from the gardener to the household staff, to a permanent Dutch house guest, to ... See full summary »


Mary McMurray


Clive Exton (dramatisation), Ruth Rendell (novel)


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
George Baker ... Chief Insp. Wexford
Christopher Ravenscroft ... Inspector Burden
Michael Jayston ... Quentin Nightingale
Catherine Neilson ... Elizabeth Nightingale
Nigel Terry ... Denys Villiers
Karen Meagher Karen Meagher ... Georgina Villiers
Ellis Van Maarseveen Ellis Van Maarseveen ... Katje Doorn
Padraig O'Loinsigh ... Sean Lovell
David Swift ... Lionel Marriott
Sandra Voe Sandra Voe ... Mrs. Myrtle Cantrip
Kate David Kate David ... Mrs. Lovell
John Burgess John Burgess ... Dr. Len Crocker
Louie Ramsay Louie Ramsay ... Dora Wexford
Ann Penfold Ann Penfold ... Jean Burden
Noah Huntley ... John Burden


When Elizabeth Nightingale is murdered, DCI Wexford has to sort his way through quite a number of suspects - from the gardener to the household staff, to a permanent Dutch house guest, to the husband Quentin and the victim's brother and his wife. While trying to figure out what really happened on that fateful night that cost Elizabeth's life, Reg Wexford uncovers that the Nightingales' marriage was not as happy as it seemed and that there is a dark secret to be revealed. Written by Jasper P. Morgan

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »


Crime | Drama | Mystery







Release Date:

19 June 1988 (UK) See more »

Filming Locations:

Romsey, Hampshire, England, UK

Company Credits

Production Co:

TVS Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(3 episodes)


See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The title is taken from a line in Wordsworth's 'Ode to Immortality': "High instincts, before which our mortal nature, Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised." See more »


Followed by The Ruth Rendell Mysteries: No Crying He Makes (1988) See more »

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User Reviews

Of some value but will bore CSI fans to death
19 April 2006 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

In a small country manor estate a small staff live and work together servicing the needs of the Nightingale family. Denys Villiers is there to work as a writer and tends to stay away from everyone else, while his sister doesn't get on with him and his wife tends to not see him that much either. When Elizabeth Nightingale is found dead in a shed in the forest, DCI Reg Wexford and his men are called in to investigate. They don't need to ask too many questions before they realise that the relationships and secrets within the small community are not as clear as they first appear.

Although I'm not a massive fan of the Wexford series I must admit that if you can take the rather downbeat pace, they generally do unfold reasonably well and make for an interesting TV detective show. The plot here is solid enough and although it never set me on fire, it was just about enough to keep me interested. The gradual picking at the case worked pretty well and the audience learn the facts and lies at the same time as Wexford and his men do. Of course to many viewers the straight-down-the-middle delivery will be actually pretty dull and, as time goes by, it looks duller and duller as TV cop shows generally require more style and gimmicks to hook the audience. Personally I did find it a bit dull and lacking in entertainment value but it was solid enough to distract.

The cast don't really help that much either. Baker's Wexford is hardly Columbo and he is hardly the most memorable TV detective I've ever seen. I'm sure it is being loyal to the books etc but you have to wonder if he didn't occasionally want to inject an bit of life into his character. Ravenscroft is much the same and doesn't have much energy even if he is a bit more interesting than Baker. Support from Terry, Jayston, Meagher and others is all much of a muchness although again I suppose it is the fault of the material that it is all a bit lifeless and serious but nobody does anything to make it better.

Overall then a solid detective story but one that id delivered without any sense of fun or flair. The story is interesting enough which is just as well because it isn't that entertaining otherwise, certainly those raised on CSI and the like will be bored to tears by this even if it is of some value.

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