rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE 

Amber BeadsEpisode: THE MYSTERY OF THE AMBER BEADS (April 23rd, 1973)

Detective: Miss Hagar Stanley, created by Fergus Hume. The first Hagar Stanley mystery was published in 1898.

Comment: She’s a Gypsy pawn shop manager who solves mysteries! Yes, despite her unlikely name, Miss Hagar Stanley was a Romany Gypsy. Fleeing a forced marriage to a male Gypsy whom she loathed and feared, Hagar sought shelter with her uncle, Jacob Dix, a shrewd pawn shop owner.

Hagar StanleyThe enterprising young Gypsy woman picked up the pawn business quickly, combining her already wily anti-establishment Romany ways with her uncle’s eye for value and hard-nosed negotiating skills. Naturally, at a pawnshop, Hagar often dealt with criminals, gamblers and wastrels. While managing the shop for her uncle, Miss Stanley also found herself solving assorted murders, thefts and other crimes.

Synopsis: Technically, the title of the short story adapted for this episode was The Second Customer and the Amber Beads. That reflected the titling format of the Hagar Stanley mysteries, with others being The Third Customer and the Jade Idol, The Sixth Customer and the Silver Teapot, and so on for all ten Hagar stories. 

This tale opens up as Miss Stanley (Sara Kestelman) has been running the pawn shop for her late uncle for quite some time. Despite her trade she is depicted showing a soft heart for particularly needy people pawning their valuables.

Hagar and VarkOn the side the young woman must repeatedly fend off the sinister advances of her uncle’s conniving Solicitor, Vark (Philip Locke). Eventually the crafty cad conveniently “finds” a will that was supposedly written by Hagar’s Uncle Jacob, a will in which the lucrative pawn shop and all its goods were left to Vark instead of to the next of kin Hagar.

As if that isn’t trouble enough for our heroine, a string of Amber Beads that were just pawned by a mysteriously shrouded woman turn out to have been stolen. The beads were purloined from elderly Mrs Arryford, who was strangled to death during the theft.

Despite what’s hanging over her own head, the noble Hagar is moved to take action when Police Detective Grubber (Joss Ackland) charges a woman that the Gypsy is convinced is innocent. The fingered female, Rose, served as a maid for the late victim and the boarders who rented from Mrs Arryford named her as the only person with opportunity to commit the crime.

In a “Pepper, you’re going undercover” spirit, the attractive Hagar encourages the advances of slick young Freddy (Stephan Chase), one of those boarders, to provide her with the chance to investigate the household and solve the mystery herself.

Sara Kestelman is very good as the Gypsy detective, showing true compassion underneath her savvy, streetwise exterior without becoming sugary or fake. A lot of padding was needed to flesh out this story to fill a 50 minute episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and much of that time is spent on the London night life of the era.

As Grubber, the ubiquitous Joss Ackland is not nearly as dismissive as you might expect of the female amateur who solves the case for him and is glad to find her to be so capable. There’s no hint of romantic interest, just respect for our heroine. 

Hagar of the Pawn ShopIn the end Hagar uses her wits and her fists to nail the true guilty party and establish poor Rose’s innocence. She also survives Vark’s dark machinations against her, as you would expect.

The Mystery of the Amber Beads is pretty good, has a very high rewatchability factor and made me wish that Hagar Stanley’s other cases had been dramatized over the years. Many of those mysteries have a proto-Lovejoy feel given the nature of some of her shop’s merchandise. +++ 


FOR MORE FORGOTTEN TELEVISION CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/category/forgotten-television/ 



Filed under Forgotten Television


  1. For your reviews, I wear-out the search options in Netflix, et al. Quality Brit, Aussie, Scandinavian, or (only occasionally) American detective noir to relax with. Thank you. Always dependably, superbly executed.

  2. Carla

    What an awesome female detective!

  3. Pepita

    I like this kind of detective!

  4. Bob

    Interesting detective! Love Joy is who I thought of too.

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