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Hulu’s response to “Knives Out”

The Hulu murder mystery “Death and Other Details” follows the career of a lawyer who eventually works as a handyman for a wealthy family. “At first it’s amazing; it’s a bunch of people spinning around like the world has come undone, and they’re looking at you like you’re the only one that can come back together.” But then you blink and it says you’re 60 years old. “They all have families and big, complicated, beautiful lives. And you’re the guy with a file full of someone else’s secrets that no one wants to sit with at a party.”

Richly written with both humor and attention to death and other details, the series may be derivative — and yet another outing about the ultra-rich — but it’s so entertaining that I’m not sure I care. Mandy Patinkin plays “the world’s best detective” Rufus Cotesworth in the 10-episode series that looks like Hulu’s answer to the questions. “Knives Out.” While the sleuth (with his strange, irreplaceable accent) is on a flashy Mediterranean cruise, a murder occurs. The culprit could be anyone from the spoiled guests or the exhausted crew, but no one is quite what they seem. “If you want to solve a crime, you must first learn to see through the illusion,” says Rufus.

She is introduced in a flashback about a woman being killed by a car bomb, leaving her young daughter orphaned. The woman was a family friend of the Colliers, who had more money than they knew what to do with, and they were taking the child to raise. A cautious little girl named Imogen. They also called in Rufus to solve the mystery of who.

But he can’t. Imogen will never forgive him.

Twenty years later, she’s a young woman (a terrific Violett Beane) with her perfect blonde bob and glamorous 1930s-inspired wardrobe. She is gorgeous and smart, and although she is not rich herself, she moves around among the rich, which brings its own challenges. Colliers’ guest on this trip. Rufus is also there; Events took an unexpected turn for him; Not so for him – and after a tense reunion, they become an unlikely duo trying to solve the murder on the ship.

Trains, mansions, cruise ships: These are great settings for a sparkling whodunit because they create a limited list of suspects who all leer at each other. One person has a criminal record “longer than a metaphor written on it,” which gives you an idea of ​​the sharp energy here. But there may be a larger conspiracy at work, an unidentified person who isn’t even on the ship and is pulling all the strings.

In the wrong hands, this kind of narrative, filled with intrigue, intrigue, and secrets to be revealed, forever unresolved, can lose its power in a multi-episode series. Not here. I truly admire how this stylish mystery piece was created by series creators Heidi Cole McAdams and Mike Weiss (both of whom worked together on ABC’s sadly shortened “Stumptown”).

The series is entertaining with its form; At one point, Imogen tries to retrace Rufus’ steps by imagining herself. like he; It’s a hilarious performance from Patinkin, asking for Rufus to be Imogen. But overall, the series is grounded in an appreciation for the necessary architecture of the genre and a facility with that structure. Some metaphors must first be established before they can be modified later. As the story goes deeper, a new wrinkle emerges with each episode. What’s happening?! But it needs to be interesting and make sense; This is where “Death and Other Details” stands out.

Patinkin’s angry Rufus is a great find, filled with the actor’s trademark combination of intensity and warmth, but he’s also mysterious enough to make you wonder why Imogen can’t uncover who killed her mother. “I never gave up on the truth,” he tells her, “the truth gave up on me.” He can only mock because Rufus is slippery and unreliable. Is he a fraud or the real deal? Maybe a little of both.

at Michael Gladis "Death and Other Details."

The supporting cast is also fantastic; among them Jere Burns, the self-loathing family handyman; Linda Emond adds another hilarious highlight to the proceedings as the Interpol inspector; “Mad Men” alum Michael Gladis stars as an obnoxious guest on the cruise who is more complex and interesting than he initially appears; and Rahul Kohli as the struggling owner of the ship.

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The vibe is all about luxury, even if the scenes on deck have the appearance of shooting on an artificial sound stage. This is probably a result of logistical and budgetary compromises, but it’s underlined when two characters set out in a smaller boat and suddenly emerge into real water with very clear real light.

A century ago, Agatha Christie became a one-woman detective industry, eschewing prolonged violence in favor of pleasure. thinking Overcoming a problem – using one’s “little gray cells”, as the fictional investigator Hercule Poirot often said. In one of his novels, he describes a group of possible suspects as seemingly calm. But inside? His thoughts were “going in circles like squirrels in a cage” and “What’s next?” He was busy with the question. WHO? Which?”

These are the questions that keep the engine of a detective story running. And “Death and Other Details” has plenty of fuel.

“Death and Other Details” — 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Where to watch: Hulu

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic.

nmetz@chicagotribune.com

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