I have a treat for you (no trick, sorry) this October! This month, I’ll be highlighting mysteries, horror movies, villainous librarians, and/or other scary things that go bump in the night. Excited? Or scared? 😉
And to kick things off, another special treat because today’s post is about a TV episode. I don’t usually focus on TV, although I do keep a running list of librarians in TV shows. But after recently catching an episode of one of my favorite TV series, Midsomer Murders, I couldn’t resist.
“The Silent Land,” episode 4 of season 13, is all about local librarian Gerald Ebbs. Never mind the fact that the actor who played poor, unfortunate Ebbs, gets no credit — shame on you, Midsomer Murders! — the entire episode hinges on this librarian character. At the beginning, said librarian is found with his head bashed in. At the base of a grave. In a historical cemetery full of hundred-year-old graves. Spooky.
This is one of those mysteries where the character of the victim is all-important. To understand the crime, and hence the murderer, you have to first understand the victim. Apart from a photograph or two, he is seen only in death, and his character seen only through others. And the victim/librarian in this case is no winner, let me tell you. Or rather, let the rest of the characters tell you. Here’s how Gerald the librarian is described throughout the episode:
He’s the first to complain if other people are late for things.
Gerald, he’s sick all right. He likes ’em dead.
He wasn’t liked by many people. He was clerk at the Parish Council. Enjoyed making decisions. He hated anyone interfering with his precious cemetery.
Bit of a fusspot.
He never used to drink. Perhaps he should’ve. Might’ve livened him up.
Sad and annoying little nobody.
I agree, he was a sad, lonely man.
Barnaby: I am forever hearing Gerald Ebbs annoyed a lot of people.
Adam Peach: More than a few.
There’s another librarian featured in this episode, as well, a Miss Sarah Sharp (played by Christina Cole), who is thrilled — to death? — at Gerald’s untimely demise. There’s even a scene in which she relishes taking down Gerald’s nameplate, throwing it in the trash, and tacking up her own nameplate.
We also get a few shots of the local library, both outside:
We also get to witness how much Sarah enjoys her promotion from “librarian assistant” to “senior librarian.” She dresses up — a new black suit complete with statement spectacles — and gets to say things like, “I’m the boss now. Got to dress the part, don’t I?” A local man is besotted with her and brings her flowers. However, she’s also described as “the tart in the library,” by locals who witnessed her start in the post office shop. Her main qualification seems to be that she was born in the village. Her sense of ethics is, shall we say, in question. But is she also a murderer?
Overall, an intriguing episode for those interested in British mysteries (the mood of this episode rather reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, a mystery with a similarly distasteful, misery-loving set of characters), but a rather disheartening one for librarians. However, this episode is interesting for showcasing the influence of a local librarian — even his death continues to shape the actions of others in the village — and its focus on inner personnel matters (qualifications, promotions, etc.) of a local library.