Jessica Fletcher is travelling through Ireland with Sean, her colleague from the Manhattan University criminology department (whom viewers previously met in “To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee“). Her friend is on sabbatical whereas Jessica is doing research for a new book. They’re in a village about an hour outside of Dublin and staying with Sean’s old friend, who lives in a house that is at the center of an old legend.
Neal: “This house was built 150 years ago by the captain of a trading ship for his wife as a wedding gift. He even built her a stone tower down by the cliffs, so she could watch as he came home from the sea. One night, she was up on the tower. A terrible night, wracked with storms, lightning. And she watched as his shop was dashed against the cliffs. It sank with all hands aboard. In despair, she threw herself from the tower to join her husband in death.”
Anne: “According to legend, from time to time, the captain’s wife can be heard here on the grounds, weeping and calling for her husband. The legend also says whenever the crying woman is heard, someone dies.”
When the wind catches around the old tower in just the right way, it causes a shrill noise like a woman screaming.
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimIt was Neal Gillen, the owner of the house Jessica’s staying at and an old friend of Sean Culhane!
Click to reveal the killerIt was Anne Gillen, the victim’s wife! And Francis Reilley, the local chemist, was her co-conspirator!
Click to reveal the weaponIt was Nitrogen gas rigged up to flow into the room when a lamp was switched on! Eventually the victim died from lack of oxygen.
Click to reveal the locationIt was in the victim’s office in the evening!
Click to reveal the motiveThe killer and her accomplice were having an affair!
Click to reveal the major clueThere are several important clues. The video taken at the time of death showed that the victim had to keep relighting his cigar (indicating a lack of oxygen in the room), and that the killer inexplicably turned off the lamp before checking on the victim. Additionally, the killer had a bottle of perfume in her dressing room that she could have only received as a gift directly from the chemist.
Cast of characters:
At the center of this episode is Jessica’s friend and the residents of the house that they are staying at:
- George Hearn plays Sean Culhane, Jessica’s criminology colleague from Manhattan University. This is Hearn’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared as the same character in “To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee” and as a different character in “Trials and Tribulations“.
- Dakin Matthews plays Neal Gillen, Sean’s old friend who made a fortune in real estate and now owns the old house that is purported to be haunted. This is Matthews’ first of three appearances on MSW.
- Shirley Anne Field plays Anne Gillen, Neal’s second wife.
There are also several additional people who stay at the house or work on the property:
- Mark Rolston plays Liam Gillen, Neal Gillen’s cousin who is a banker with access to Neal’s company accounts. This is Rolston’s second of four appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “To the Last Will I Grapple with Thee“.
- Sarah MacDonnell plays Claire Abbot, a woman from the local village who helps at Neal’s estate.
- Don Knight plays Quint Sankey, the caretaker of Neal’s estate grounds.
Jessica also visits several establishments in the local village and meets those who run those establishments:
- Shay Duffin plays Brian Mulrain, the proprietor of the local pub/hotel/restaurant.
- Nora Masterson plays Carolyn Mulrain, Brian’s wife.
- Mark Lindsay Chapman plays Francis Reilly, the proprietor of the local chemist shop. This is Chapman’s third of four appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Grand Old Lady“.
- Pat Crawford Brown plays a Cashier at the chemist’s. This is Brown’s second and final appearance on MSW; she previously appeared in “Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble“.
In her quest to learn more about the mystery of the tower, Jessica also comes into contact with several other locals:
- John Finnegan plays Douglas Foudy, a man that Jessica interviews at the pub regarding local history. This is Finnegan’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Good-Bye Charlie“.
- Michael Alldredge plays Jason MacNamara, a man Jessica meets at the pub who happens to have a grudge against Neal Gillen for buying up his land.
- Richard Riehle plays Sergeant Devon O’Malley, a Garda detective in charge of investigating the murder. This is Riehle’s second appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Dead Letter“. He will also go on to appear in the TV movie “South by Southwest”.
Final thoughts and other trivia:
One of the things I enjoyed about this episode was the incorporation of footage of Irish villages and countryside in order to establish the setting. There’s even a little bit of continuity in the setting since it’s mentioned in the episode that they’re about an hour from Dublin, and the location shots they did use were all from county Wicklow.
However, the road signs shown at the beginning of the episode (seen in the top-left of the collage below) must have been faked since they suggest that Dublin is just 17 km away when in reality it is approximately 70 km away from the villages of Aughrim and Balllycoog.
By using clues from various signs visible in the shots I was able to pinpoint that the hotel/restaurant they used in the establishing shots (seen in the four pictures in the top-right) was the Lawless Hotel in Aughrim. Additionally, the building seen in the establishing shots of the chemist (seen in the two pictures in the bottom-left) is now Tierney’s Pharmacy on Main Street in Rathdrum.
The one location I haven’t quite been able to place is the location of the house (specifically the one seen in the middle picture on the far left of the collage). The house itself, where some of the exterior scenes involving Liam Gillen and Claire Abbot, was the so-called Max Busch house in Pasadena, California (which has since been demolished). However, that house was never located near a cliff nor was there a stone tower near it. Therefore, I suspect that the particular images that show the house and tower at a distance may have been doctored/fabricated.
Finally, I wanted to note that a scene from this episode, in which Jessica is walking through a dark tunnel, was later incorporated into the opening montage in subsequent seasons. And also that the scenes of Jessica in the chemist’s shop give us some good glimpses of some previously unmentioned J.B. Fletcher books.
Very interesting, cool that you researched the Irish locations, and I like many of the character actors you mentioned. Not my favorite episode, but the cast and scenery are lovely.
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