"Miss Scarlett and the Duke" PBS Masterpiece Mystery

 Review by Kathleen Costa

PBS stations, like KVIE (Sacramento) and KQED (San Francisco), are one avenue to enjoy a wide range of UK television series and movies. There’s Father Brown, Shakespeare and Hathaway, Death in Paradise, and Vera, along with many more including new favorites All Creatures Great and Small and Miss Scarlet and the Duke. Although the stations have regular fundraising events, it is one’s “choice” to become a member with a monthly or annual pledge. However, both KVIE & KQED have Passport, a streaming option. It is an added benefit for U.S. donors contributing an annual tax-deductible gift of $60 or more or an ongoing gift of $5 per month. This allows access to thousands of movies, documentaries, news programs, and local interest specials. Lots of ways to support public television and be entertained!

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Image Source PBS
Move Over, Mr. Holmes, it’s Miss Scarlet

It is Victorian London, and choices and opportunities are limited for women, even those who are independent in thought, brave in speech, and clever in design. That is the plight of Miss Eliza Scarlet who had been trained by her father Henry in the art of deduction as well as skilled with puzzles, creative thinking, and forensic sciences, but society provides no avenues in life for her except marriage. Not much of a prospect in Rupert Parker which would also include his overbearing, insufferable mother. Life, however, is filled with its tragic surprises. Eliza’s father has been found dead of a heart attack, leaving her without money and without prospects, but his private detective agency is now hers.

Chief Inspector William Wellington, known as “the Duke,” was Eliza’s father’s protégé when her father was a detective inspector at Scotland Yard. He is quite aware of and exasperated by Eliza’s boldness, and his attempts to keep her at bay and out of the way are too often for naught. But, without her several of his cases would have gone unsolved. Credit, however, is denied her; the press heaps commendations on William, his department, and his superiors. He vies for a big promotion, one dangled in front of him by Superintendent Stirling (Nick Dunning), but he is confronted by politics, nepotism, and prejudice—an issue he refuses to admit he shares with Eliza.

“Henry Scarlet—Private Detective” Open for Business

The printing on the glass carrying her father’s name remains, and Mr. Parker, no longer pursuing her as a wife, has become agreeable as a silent partner, yet cases are not forthcoming. She is forced to deal with the results of falling for the oldest ploy in the book (Inheritance), tries ingratiating herself into a police murder case landing herself incarcerated (The Woman in Red), sent uncover at a suffragette’s meeting by Scotland Yard exposing her to danger (Deeds, Not Words), and hired to investigate a ghostly image in a photograph showcasing Eliza’s skill (Momento Mori) which only adds fuel to the already hostile relationship with Detective Wellington. Fortuitous circumstances have introduced her, albeit at gun point, to the Jamaican Moses whose criminal background has made him a valuable resource. However, it’s the discovery of her father’s journal and clue to an abandoned prison that reveals shocking information about her father’s death (Cell 99; The Case of Henry Scarlet) and unites Eliza with Wellington in one purpose. The two set aside personal conflicts, misunderstandings, and prejudices, but not their snarky banter, to expose a huge crime and a possible link to higher authorities. There is hope a “detente” may be achievable between Eliza and William, but a hint that their sibling-like rivalry is evolving into something deeper and more loving is also a possibility. Can she stop being meddlesome and he stop being arrogant? Delightfully improbable!

Image Source PBS
Miss Scarlet and the Duke earns 5+/5 Cups of Tea...Engaging Fun; a Big Hit!

Image Source PBS
This new 2020 production is an exciting mystery drama set in the late nineteenth century realistically portraying a very capable woman forty years before gender inequality would be addressed with women gaining the right to vote in England. Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips), definitely her father’s daughter, is introspective, clever, and strong-willed. She’ll hold you off with a gun if she needs to. When she does struggle, her inner voice appears as her father Henry (Kevin Doyle), sitting in a chair opposite her, calling her “Lizzie,” and reminding her to trust what she knows and scolding her a bit for lapses of stubbornness. Her bravery facilitated a professional relationship with the Jamaican underworld figure Moses (Amsu Kabia), but it’s the respect she affords him that makes him an ally. William Wellington (Stuart Martin) has his own “prejudicial” issues at work, and his efforts to keep Eliza out of police business is more to protect her than insulting her abilities. He and Moses dislike each other heatedly, but have found common ground in their desire to support and protect Eliza. The murder mysteries are creative and engaging, highlighting society’s class and gender struggles, absence of technology, and use of old-school detective methods. Sherlock Holmes meet Eliza Scarlet! 

“More, sir, I’d like some more!” A second season has been ordered, but there have been delays due to the pandemic restrictions. Stay tuned!  

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.


  1. Terrific review of an excellent show!!

  2. It was an amazing respite in the 13 months that the pandemic has had us in its thrall.


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