This is disc two of the third series; it was the last aired in the UK, but the second in the US. For some reason, this series has aired in its entirety in the US (summer 2007, with the DVD release in the fall), but has not yet or only just completely aired in the UK (two September 2007, two August 2008; Nemesis is listed with a generic August airdate on wikipedia (page has cast lists and very vague spoilers about changes)); the cast list is also on imdb.
There are probably spoilers here; it is difficult to talk about the differences without them. I had seen the cast list and was aware that it was not a close adaptation; very few of the novel’s characters are in the cast list (the murderer, the accused, the victim, and a supporting character; all might as well have been different people, and the supporting character didn’t even have the same function as in the novel). I also had watched the first series and had seen how far they strayed from the novels as time went on; the first two were relatively faithful, the third had some characterization changes and extra added angsty subplots, and the fourth had what was essentially the same plot with different characters. I had at one point decided to watch this one next because it looked so different, but had decided to continue in order; I failed to change my queue or check it until after this one had shipped, though. Netflix does have all of the first three series, but the second two are listed under the book name only, not as part of Agatha Christie’s Marple as the first was.
The basic plot was the same: Jason Rafiel has died and left a sum to Miss Marple, under the condition that she investigate an unidentified past event (identifying the event (a murder, of course) was part of the investigation); he arranges for her to go on a house tour through the relevant area. The murderer’s motive and eventual (generic, not specific) fate are also the same, but everything else is different. It is not clear how Mr. Rafiel and Miss Marple met (in the books, previously in A Caribbean Mystery; here, unspecified, though I skipped some and don’t know if he was written into one of those), but his personality and history are completely different. The amount of the bequest was also changed (£20,000 in the book vs. £500 here), but that may be because they moved the story into the past; the novel was one of the last she wrote (published in 1971), while this was set in 1951.
Miss Marple receives instructions (via gramophone) and two tickets for a tour, she decides to take her womanizing nephew Raymond West along. It becomes obvious early on that the other tourists were hand-picked by Mr. Rafiel, though none of them knew it; everyone received tickets from some source instead of deciding that this tour was a good idea. The book had a mix of tourists, and the ones that Mr. Rafiel sponsored knew it. The tour guide is named Georgina Barrow, but she bears no resemblance to the Georgina Barrow of the book.
This adaptation had a World War II-era backstory, including Nazis, a convent, nuns, wounded soldiers, amnesia victims, heiresses, servants, landlords, blackmail, a missing girl in the past, and two murders in the present; the book had school headmistresses and professors and other random people, mostly around the same class as Miss Marple (with maybe a title somewhere), a murder and a missing girl (I think; it might have been two murders, though) in the past and one in the present, with a someone convicted of the murder. One of the Netflix reviewers complained about extra added lesbians, but I didn’t see any difference in that particular relationship between the book and its adaptation.
The overall plot seemed very contrived: eleven years later, Mr. Rafiel somehow managed to track down everyone who knew Verity around the time of her disappearance; it’s possible he managed to find out about her last landlord, but unlikely he would have found the ex-soldier significant unless he knew her eventual fate, and if he knew her eventual fate, he could have gone through more normal channels. I think the tour in the book was a normal tour that happened to go near the relevant area; Mr. Rafiel arranged for Miss Marple to stay with a family who knew Verity (the missing girl/murder victim) during part of the tour. This tour was probably planned by Mr. Rafiel to go to all of the relevant locations, including a forced overnight stay at the abandoned convent. He also gave Miss Marple more relevant clues in this than she had in the book; staying with the relevant family (three sisters, either widowed or never married) led to a more natural exposition of the backstory in the novel. In this, Miss Marple didn’t really do anything beyond ask loud questions and listen to the answers. I’m not sure why the killer tried to poison her at the end; it seemed very abrupt.
The book didn’t have as much action or random subplots as its adaptation; it had a bit more of an aura of menace and a bit of creepiness, though. It was obvious that something was not quite right, but was not obvious until the end who was responsible. I am unfortunately hazy on the book’s details at this time, but may go back and write a longer comparison later; I did write a long plot synopsis of this adaptation for future reference. This might not have been a bad murder mystery on its own, but it bears no resemblance to the book it takes its name from.