BritBox Streaming: From One, Comes Another, "Father Brown" & "Sister Boniface"

Review by Kathleen Costa

BritBox continues to provide iconic programs as well as new releases and originals for a very reasonable membership fee (monthly $6.99 or annual special $69.99). I continue to get my daily British fix with all-time favorites (The Good Neighbor aka The Good Life and Are you Being Served? Again!) as well as iconic mysteries (Midsomer Murders), police dramas (Heartbeat), and plenty of classics from Shakespeare to Christie. I also get fascinating insights with gardening shows, documentaries, and travel programs that allow me to roam no farther than my personal WiFi. For 2022, Father Brown is back, but there’s some competition with the Sister Boniface Mysteries. With more vintage and new shows and movies on the horizon, my BritBox app is anchored on my devices.

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Father Brown has been one of Britain’s most popular light detective dramas since 2013, and this year’s season nine leads to a milestone to which many shows only aspire…its 100th episode. The stories are pure cozy fun with a cast that seems meant for their parts, including Mr. Weasley himself Mark Williams as the ever-lovable, ever-devoted, and ever-nosy Father Brown peddling about on his trusty bicycle dubbed Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s war horse. Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), always coiffed in a fashionable hat whether indoors or out, is back with her iconic critical retort and award winning scones, and the bumbling Inspector Mallory (Jack Deam) continues to get it wrong, while the competent Sergeant Goodfellow (John Burton) tries to right the ship. There are some delightful surprises! Sid Carter (Alex Price) showed up, but no explanation as to what happened to the woman he went off with, and Lady Felicia (Nancy Carrol) again graces Kimbleford along with Hercule Flambeau (John Light), and Penelope “Bunty” Windermere (Emer Kennedy) speeds in late in the season. The gang’s all here, but with so many missing and then popping in for a bow, I feared a season ten was in question. However, a recent report indicates season ten will air late 2022 to early 2023! Thank Heaven!
Image Source Britbox
Image Source Britbox
These ten season nine episodes are filled with signature karmic murders, since it never pays to be greedy, malicious, or selfish in Kembleford, or exacting revenge for some karmic retribution. Along with a centuries past papal heist instigating a treasure hunt, several misunderstandings difficult to explain, Mrs. M. as a target, and plenty of the wrong people being arrested by Inspector Mallory, Father Brown gets a taste of being a victim with accusations made he violated the sanctity of the confessional (“The New Order.”). He ends up in civvies for a time while trying to clear his name. Along with roaming Kembleford and the countryside to uncover clues, there are trips to a holiday camp, a remand home for girls, and a spa, and in the last episode, also the 100th for the series, Lady Felicia hosts a New Year’s Eve masked ball heralding 1954. It brings everyone together for an exciting “whodunnit” tale! Excellent season nine. Brilliant series. And on BritBox? You can watch all nine seasons over and over again

Sister Boniface Mystery is a spin-off from the Father Brown series first introduced in season one, “The Bride of Christ” (2013). Just as a novice Sister Mary Magdalene is to take her final vows, she collapses and dies…poisoned. The St. Agnes convent has its struggles with the Reverend Mother being verbally berated and mercilessly criticized by veteran nun Sister Paul recently assigned from Calcutta. She won’t be subordinate to those she deems beneath her, of course, someone takes murderous offense to her behavior…she’s poisoned! Enter Sister Boniface (Lorna Watson) who, due to the suspicion of cyanide, is approached for her expertise. She is quite a character, serious fan of Agatha Christie novels often referencing parts to explain scenarios and clues, organized with an excellent memory, a scientific knowledge of chemicals and plants and herbs, and a winemaker (in a convent?), and very nosy! She is an excellent partner for Father Brown, and no wonder the powers that be saw a future for Sister Boniface.

Nine years later, we find Sister Boniface (Lorna Watson reprising her role) residing in St. Vincent’s convent where she also has a tricked out laboratory. She is not an accidental member of the local constabulary; her “extracurricular activities,” as described by Reverend Mother, is actually as the Police Scientific Advisor. She is Cambridge educated with a PhD in chemistry, an IQ of 156, and sporting around on her red moped often with a side car. Although MI5 wanted her on their team after the war, she instead “took the veil.” The lead detective DI Sam Gillespie, admits that “Somewhat annoyingly, she is usually right.
Episode of "Father Brown" that introduced Sister Boniface

The investigating team of Great Slaughter includes an eclectic group. The handsome DI Sam Gillespie (Max Brown; Downton Abbey movie) may flub some names and places, but he is very competent, knows the community, and trusts Sister Boniface’s expertise. DS Felix Livingston (Jerry Iwu) is newly attached from Hamilton, Bermuda, but he was suppose to be assigned to Scotland Yard and finds limited assistance to remedy his dilemma…they need him, too. WPC Peggy Button (Ami Metcaff) is the lowest in the hierarchy, but she has her important moments in the varied cases. Outside the team is investigative journalist and editor of the Albion Bugle Ruth Penny (Miranda Raisin) who offers more interference than assistance, and a plethora of nuns and villagers with their own quirky personalities.

Cast of "Sister Boniface" Image Source Britbox
The ten-episode series is excellent, very enjoyable with its twist of the clergy having an official role in the criminal investigations. It is set in the 1960s with the fashions and music on display, but it means it’s in the future in comparison to Father Brown that ended its season by greeting 1954. The mysteries are clever, often karmic in their justice, with varying motives and lots of suspects, entangling the framed or innocent bystander until Sister Boniface cleverly uncovers the final clue for an arrest often with a bit of peril for her or one of the team. “God willing” there’ll be a season two!  

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.