Whilst in the woods to photograph a rare orchid, elderly spinster Emily Simpson witnesses something that so traumatises her she immediately rushes back to her cottage. Shortly afterwards there is a knock on her door and the following morning her dead body is discovered.

Barnaby and Troy arrive in Badger's Drift to investigate. When the autopsy confirms their suspicions that Emily was murdered they attempt to trace her last movements, discovering she rang the local helpline in a very distressed state but all she said to the operator was "just like Anabella".

The detectives commence interviewing local villagers including Dr. and Mrs. Lassiter (who clearly have a less than harmonious marriage), their daughter Judy and the somewhat camp and rather obnoxious undertaker, Dennis Rainbird and his equally sinister mother. The 'Rainbirds' owe much of their affluent lifestyle to a sideline of spying on the indescretions of villagers and blackmailing them.

Eventually enquiries lead Barnaby to Tye House to question its wealthy, but wheelchair bound, owner Henry Trace and his sister-in-law Phyllis Cadell. Barnaby suspects there may be a link to Emily's call to the helpline and a hunting accident two years earlier in which Henry's first wife 'Bella' was shot. Trace is now preparing to marry his ward, the much younger Catherine Lacey who lives with her artist brother Michael, with whom she has a somewhat volatile relationship.

Events, however, take a dramatic turn when the Rainbirds are hacked to death by an unseen killer. Notebooks found in their cottage reveal the extent of their blackmail. Victims include the Lassiters and, more importantly, Phyllis Cadell whom they discovered murdered Bella Trace.

Confronted with this evidence Phyllis is arrested and freely confesses to the murder but denies killing the 'Rainbirds'.

Barnaby is far from convinced about the hunting death and when an eye witness reports seeing Michael Lacey enter the 'Rainbirds' cottage at the time of their deaths he and Troy conduct a search of Michael's studio finding a bloodstained knife. Lacey is taken into custody but later claims he was with Judy Lassiter at the time. When she confirms his alibi Barnaby has no choice but to release him. Meantime Phyllis Cadell commits suicide in the police cells much to Barnaby's dismay.

It takes Barnaby's acute powers of observation, a trip to Brighton, a hidden painting and even a very surreal dream before he unravels the puzzle and finally understands what poor Emily meant by "Just like Anabella".

RUN TIME: - Approx. 1 hour 42 minutes.




This was the pilot episode



It was based on Caroline Graham's book which has been voted as one of the 100 best crime novels of all time.



Dennis Rainbird's Porsche has the number plate RIP 1



Caroline Graham and Anthony Horowitz appear in the dream sequence as wedding guests.



Most of the humour in this episode arises from Joyce's efforts to cook Tom 'gourmet' meals much to his disgust!



Troy also demonstrates his erratic driving skills almost knocking over a cyclist.



MM is generally free of swearing (or strong language as TV companies prefer to call it). However, one exchange between Troy and Dennis Rainbird slipped a disguised 'C' word. Surprisingly the network kept it in or maybe they didn't notice?