Murder, She Wrote 4.6 “It Runs in the Family”

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In this episode, we’re in England following a chapter in the life of Jessica’s cousin, Emma McGill (also played by Angela Lansbury).  Now retired from performing in dance halls, Emma finds out that her old boyfriend from when she was 19 and he was 22 is gravely ill and his wish is to see her one last time.

It is revealed that he is now the 18th Viscount Blackraven (after his father died 6 weeks prior), and that his will stipulates that Emma will inherit a house in Tuxford upon his death. (The reference to the river Trent reinforces the fact that this secondary house is in Nottinghamshire).  Although it is clear that, at the beginning of the episode, Emma is in London, there are no hints about where the Manor Blackraven is meant to be located.

Just the facts ma’am:

Spoilers are in white font, so highlight the text below to reveal the answers.

  • The victim was… the 18th Viscount Blackraven! (and the 17th Viscount Blackraven prior to the events of the episode)!
  • killed by… his nephew’s wife!
  • in… a field by the side of a road — on a picnic in the country!
  • with… poisoned pickled herring!
  • because… she was a baker’s daughter and couldn’t wait to “be somebody”!
  • vital clues: a freshly cleaned car with muddy tires.

Big names:


Anthony Newley plays Inspector Frost. Some of his more famous accomplishments include writing the lyrics to the titular song for the James Bond film Goldfinger.


There are also multiple actors who either were or went on to become sitcom regulars.  From left to right:

  • Christopher Hewett plays the family solicitor, Humphrey Defoe, and is best known as the titular character from Mr. Belvedere;
  • Jane Leeves plays one of the family members’ girlfriend Gwen Petrie, and is best known as Daphne Moon from Frasier;
  • Ian Abercrombie plays Dr. Blandings, and is also known for being Elaine’s boss Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld;
  • and finally we get some brief glimpses of Pamela Kosh playing local Mrs. Dexter-Hundley — you might know her as Ms Simpson, one of the teachers on Saved by the Bell.

Repeat offenders:


For several of the actors, this was also the first of their multiple appearances on the show. From left to right:

  • Carolyn Seymour, playing the victim’s niece-in-law Pauline Constable, will go on to appear in two more MSW episodes.
  • John Standing, playing the victim’s nephew Arthur Constable, will go on to appear in one more MSW episode.
  • John David Bland, playing the victim’s grand-nephew Derek Constable, will go on to appear in one more MSW episode.
  • And last but not least, Mark Lindsay Chapman, playing another of the victim’s nephews Johnny Constable, will go on to appear in three more MSW episodes!

Honourable mentions:


While probably not household names, the two actors playing the oldest Constable family members have had pretty impressive careers.  And while they’ve each only been in this single episode of MSW, they’ve had many appearances in other mystery series.

  • Richard Johnson, playing Lord Geoffrey Constable, also appeared in Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Kavanagh QC, and Magnum, P.I.
  • Rosemary Murphy, playing Sybil Constable, appeared in Quincy M.E., Columbo, Magnum P.I., and also had a major role in To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Final thoughts:

The main notable thing about this episode is that “Jessica Fletcher” doesn’t appear in this episode at all. Angela Lansbury plays “Cousin Emma” for the entire duration of the episode and Emma does all the sleuthing.

A mini-blooper in this episode shows that Emma knocks over and spills her beer on her way out of the pub and just ignores it…


And that’s it! That’s all she wrote!


    1. I definitely will! So far I’ve done from half-way through season 3 up to the beginning of season 7, but I’ve lagged a bit over the past year. Doing my day job from home over the past year is zapping the energy out of me, but I expect I’ll have more time to catch up starting in April 🙂


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