P. D. James’s enigmatic poet/policeman DSI Adam Dalgliesh (Bertie Carvel), has returned to Acorn TV! As with Season 1, each mystery is presented in two episodes, kicking off with “Death of an Expert Witness.” As you may remember from the first season, Dalgliesh was undergoing some hard times, grieving his lost wife and child, and dealing with exceptionally nasty cases, causing his poetic voice to be stilled. Partway through the season, DS Kate Miskin (Carlyss Peer) joined his all-male, all-white team, and her huge (obvious) crush on her boss didn’t help matters despite him seemingly oblivious. (Maybe we’ll find out if that’s true this season.)
It’s still the 1970s in Norfolk, a rural area rife with superstition and legend; once again, we have a complicated plot. (Prepare to be fooled and occasionally confused.) However, Adam’s poetry mojo is back with a new book, with Kate entranced at his readings. His book is doing so well that his agent has an offer of a U.S. tour, but a call from Scotland Yard ends their conversation. There’s a murder investigation of a young woman whose body was found in a clunch pit (a disused chalk quarry), although it’s suspected it was a domestic case, led by DI Doyle (Stuart Graham), a worldly, if not crooked, cop.
To hammer the weirdness of Norfolk home, we’re shown someone dabbling in witchcraft with effigies and pins and a pub show featuring two capering masked folkloric dancers. Here we meet Dr. Edmund Lorrimer (Dominic Rowan), a senior forensic biologist at Hoggats Forensic Lab, a vulgar and obnoxious man making enemies wherever he goes, evidenced by his murder, using the same wooden mallet as the clunch pit killing. There are three lab keys: Edmund’s (still in his possession), The Facility Director’s (in his office safe), and a spare at the police station. Since Hoggats is used in police investigations, this could be embarrassing.
The suspects include laboratory director Max Howarth (Sam Hoare), a slick newcomer with plans for a lab expansion to replace the rather creepy Gothic pile it currently occupies. He has an alibi, playing violin at the pub show, accompanied by his sister Domenica (Margaret Clunie), whose epic resting bitch face indicates she was bored out of her mind. His PA, Angela Foley (Caroline Main), is Edmund’s illegitimate cousin and resents his refusal to share family money. She’s hoping to inherit so she and her partner, novelist Stella Mawson (Shanaya Rafaat), can stay in their cozy cottage.
Coworker Dr. David Rollinson (Richard Harrington), a single father, claims he left early, a story backed by hostile pre-teen Nell (Lara Cohen), son William (Ezra Carlisle), and housekeeper Miss Willard (Deborah Findlay), the latter who Edmund drove to church. Brenda Pridmore (Altho Ross), the only person who tolerated him, found the body. The most recent hire, Clifford Bradley (Perry Milward), has been terrified of Edmund’s bullying, and his wife encouraged him to confront Edmund, and they argued. When he came back from emotionally vomiting, Edmund was dead. He saw a car parked outside with unusual tire tracks.
Edmund’s elderly father (David Hargreaves) confirms he had no friends, although a woman phoned recently, reciting numbers beginning with 18 and 40. Edmund’s desk is full of passionate love letters to Domenica, who admits she found him boring and dumped him. Edmund changed his will recently to leave £5,000 for Brenda’s education; Angela will receive nothing. She’s furious, and Stella promises to sort everything out, leading to Brenda finding her bicycle tires flat. Walking through a shortcut, she’s convinced she’s being followed and takes refuge in the chapel, only to find Stella’s lifeless body hanging from a beam.
Adam notes the chapel’s hymn board includes 18 and 40, and a pile of pillows has hair on it. The hymn board is coded for the date and time of assignations. Meanwhile, the car was identified as belonging to DI Doyle’s wife, and DI Doyle was found asleep on the road heading north. Doyle confesses he was having an affair with a colleague; they used the car for their trysts. He’s embarrassed, admitting he got drunk, missed his wife, and set off to visit her. He slept in the car when he realized he was over the limit. He’s two years from retirement, and an incident of this sort could jeopardize his pension.
Adam and Kate visit Brenda, who’s discovered too many bodies in two days. Her mother (Lucy Cray-Miller) worries the inheritance will start rumors about her relationship with Edmund, but Dalgliesh says he grew up in Norfolk, and he knows how insular and superstitious it is. He says to encourage Brenda to embrace life, especially once it’s proved a grit spill caused her bicycle punctures. Brenda’s situation reminds Dalgliesh he has a responsibility to Kate, offering to help further her career. She jokes about him wanting to get rid of her, but if their attraction is mutual, then encouraging a promotion elsewhere might be the best for them both.
But, back to the murders. Adam finds Angela hysterical because the police want to search Stella’s possessions. She tells Dalgliesh Stella implied she had gone out to raise the money to buy their house but denies that it could be blackmail: Stella hated injustice. Adam agrees her death was not suicide — no writer so close to the end of a novel would have abandoned it. After he leaves, Angela invites Doyle over, convinced he killed Stella and waves a sword at him. She accuses Doyle of helping himself to the cannabis stored at the lab. Doyle is exasperated since he was asleep in his wife’s car at the time of Stella’s murder and persuades her to drop the sword.
Brenda tells Adam, somewhat late in the day, she’d seen Edmund shout at the Rollinson children when they were waiting at the lab to meet their dad from work and describes how angry David was. Clearly, it’s time to revisit the Rollinson household. Little William runs out in front of Dalgliesh’s car in pursuit of a ball, and Nell is furious. She accuses Miss Willard of being drunk and not looking after her brother and Miss Willard shouts back, accusing her of being wicked. Adam tells Miss Willard off for her unkindness to Nell, and the housekeeper spills the beans about the family.
The children’s mother lives in London with another doctor, which is why David has custody, but he also started an affair with Domenica. Edmund was jealous and threatens to tell David’s ex about his affair with Domenica, which could destroy his custody rights. David confronted Edmund at the lab that night and killed him. Having noticed photographs of David in mountaineering gear, Adam realizes he’d escaped through the open bathroom window Clifford left after vomiting. David, almost as an afterthought, admits to killing Stella after she tries to blackmail him by demanding a loan.
Kate wins Nell’s confidence by talking about embarrassing crushes on pop groups, and Nell admits to playing around with witchcraft. But, she says sadly, she didn’t need it, suggesting she knew her beloved father was a killer. Adam arrests David but, in an unorthodox and generous gesture, takes him home and allows him ten minutes to say goodbye to his children.