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The Detectives

Readings and music inspired by some of fiction's greatest detectives including Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Inspector Morse. Readers: Hayley Atwell and Mark Strong.

Readings and pieces inspired by some of fiction's greatest detectives, including Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Inspector Morse

Music includes works by Wagner, Janacek and Rimsky-Korsakov, with songs from Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan and Charles Mingus

Extracts - from noir classics, Charles Dickens and Sara Paretsky - read by Hayley Atwell and Mark Strong.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Fri 29 Dec 2017 17:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Don Raye, Gene de Paul

    You don’t know what love is

    Performer: Chet Baker.
    • Sony CK65562.
    • Tr1.
  • Dashiell Hammett

    The Maltese Falcon, read by Mark Strong

  • 00:05

    Adolph Deutsch

    The Maltese Falcon (soundtrack)

    Performer: Brandenburg Philharmonic, William T. Stromberg.
    • RCA 09026681452.
    • Tr2-3.
  • Agatha Christie

    Murder at the Vicarage, read by Hayley Atwell

  • 00:10

    Charles Mingus

    Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

    Performer: Charles Mingus.
    • Sony CK65512.
    • Tr2.
  • Sara Paretsky

    Deadlock, read by Hayley Atwell

  • 00:18

    Dave Brubeck


    Performer: Dave Brubeck.
    • CBS 32DP787.
    • Tr2.
  • Dashiell Hammett

    The Thin Man, read by Mark Strong

  • 00:25

    Charles Mingus

    Boogie Stop Shuffle

    Performer: Charles Mingus.
    • Sony CK65512.
    • Tr3.
  • Edgar Allan Poe

    The Murders in the Rue Morgue, read by Hayley Atwell

  • 00:32

    Florent Schmitt

    Etude pour Le Palais Hante

    Performer: Georges Prêtre.
    • EMI 7646872.
    • Tr3.
  • Raymond Chandler

    The Long Goodbye, read by Mark Strong

  • 00:37

    Sonny Burke

    Black Coffee

    Performer: Sarah Vaughan.
    • Sony CK44165.
    • Tr 1.
  • anon.

    The Arabian Nights, read by Hayley Atwell

  • 00:43

    Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov


    Performer: Leonard Bernstein.
    • Sony SK60737.
    • Tr3.
  • Charles Dickens

    Bleak House, read by Mark Strong

  • 00:51

    Leos Janáček


    Performer: Charles Mackerras.
    • Decca 4307272.
    • Tr4.
  • anon.

    The Bible, read by Hayley Atwell

  • 00:57

    Alessandro Stradella

    La Susanna

    Performer: Emanuela Galli.
    • Glossa GCDC81201.
    • CD2, Tr4.
  • Colin Dexter

    The Remorseful Day, read by Mark Strong

  • 01:06

    Richard Wagner

    Tristan und Isolde

    Performer: Kirsten Flagstad.
    • EMI 9078972.
    • Tr16-17.

Words and Music Police Department – Homicide Division


Prelude: Chet Baker introduces tough private eye Sam Spade, the hero of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.  Made iconically famous by Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s 1941 film noir adaptation, Adolph Deutsch’s soundtrack for the movie deftly evokes a dark and dirty San Francisco peopled by thugs, hoods and femmes fatales.

The Murder: Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage introduced veteran amateur sleuth Miss Marple to the world of crime fiction; then, with the slain victim’s body still warm, V. I. Warshawski takes up the case: Sara Paretsky’s sassy PI not only hunting the murderer but also dodging an attempt on her own life.  Charles Mingus and Dave Drubeck provide the jazzy backdrop, be it a thrilling chase or a haunting reflection on life and death.

Deduction: After a boozy interlude (courtesy of Hammett’s cocktail-guzzling Thin Man, Nick Charles) Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin attributes The Murders in the Rue Morgue to, of all things, an escaped orang-utan. His assistant’s gathering horror is here illustrated by music by Florent Schmitt’s music based on another work of Poe’s, The Haunted Palace.  From The Arabian Nights comes the tale of men who both claim to have murdered a young woman, and the clever caliph who outwits the one falsely confessing to the crime.  In between comes a coffee interlude from The Long Goodbye (perhaps to counteract the effects of all those cocktails!): thus Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is joined in a Black Coffee by Sarah Vaughan.

The Arrest: From Dickens’ multi-faceted Bleak House comes the apprehension of the mysterious Mr. George by London’s Finest, Insp.Bucket of The Yard.

The Trial: The Book of Daniel tells of the beautiful Susanna, blackmailed by lecherous elders and saved by proto-barrister Daniel’s skill cross-examination.  Alessandro Stradella’s 1681 oratorio sets this biblical episode with great poise and dignity, matched by the exquisite singing of soprano Emanuela Galli; while listeners of a certain generation will instantly be transported to TV’s Crown Court by Janacek’s Sinfonietta.

Coda: Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse dies towards the end of the novel The Remorseful Day: his last words, famously: “Thank Lewis for me.”  His life comes to a peaceful close accompanied by the music of his beloved Wagner, the Liebestod that ends Tristan und Isolde peerlessly recorded by Kirsten Flagstad and Wilhelm Furtwangler.


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