The Ruth Rendell Mysteries

The Ruth Rendell Mysteries is a British television crime drama series, produced by TVS and Meridian Broadcasting, in association with Blue Heaven productions, for broadcast on ITV. Twelve series were broadcast between 2 August 1987, and 11 October 2000. Created by renowned author Ruth Rendell, the first six series focused entirely on Rendell's main literary character Chief Inspector Reg Wexford, played by George Baker. Repeat airings of these series change the programme's title to The Inspector Wexford Mysteries. However, later series shifted focus onto other short stories previously written by Rendell, with Wexford only featuring in three further stories, in 1996, 1998 and 2000 respectively. When broadcast, these three stories were broadcast under the title Inspector Wexford.

The Ruth Rendell Mysteries
Title card
Also known asThe Inspector Wexford Mysteries
GenreCrime drama
Created by
Composer(s)Brian Bennett
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
Original language(s)
  • English
No. of series12
No. of episodes84 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Graham Benson
  • Colin Rogers
  • Tim Vaughn
  • John Davies
  • Neil Zeiger
Production location(s)
  • United Kingdom
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network
Picture format4:316:9
Audio formatMonoStereo
Original release2 August 1987 (1987-08-02) 
11 October 2000 (2000-10-11)

In some cases, stories were expanded from Rendell's original material or elements from a number of stories were woven together into one episode. A smaller number of episodes were based on Rendell's full-length novels, such as The Strawberry Tree starring Simon Ward, Going Wrong starring James Callis, A Case of Coincidence starring Keith Barron and Ronald Pickup, Front Seat starring Janet Suzman and The Lake of Darkness starring Jerome Flynn. An overall total of fifty-five episodes featured Inspector Wexford, alongside his wife Dora (Louie Ramsay) and sidekick DI Mike Burden (Christopher Ravenscroft). A total of twenty-nine episodes focused on other characters. The first six series were released on VHS, but have never been released on DVD due to an issue with Television South's licensing rights, which affects most of their back catalogue of programming. Series seven to twelve have since been released on DVD as a Best Of box set, omitting four episodes.


  • George Baker as DCI Reg Wexford (Series 1—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Christopher Ravenscroft as DI Mike Burden (Series 1—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Louie Ramsay as Dora Wexford (Series 1—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Deborah Poplett as Sheila Wexford (Series 1—6, 9, 11)
  • Charon Bourke as Sylvia Wexford (Series 2—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Emma Smith as Pat Burden (Series 1—6)
  • Diane Keen as Jenny Burden (Series 4—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Ann Penfold as Jean Burden (Series 1—4)
  • Noah Huntley as John Burden (Series 1—4)
  • Ken Kitson as DS Tommy Martin (Series 1—6)
  • Isobel Middleton as DS Karen Malahyde (Series 2—6, 9, 11—12)
  • Colin Campbell as Sgt Willoughby (Series 2—6)
  • Dave Hill as DCC Freeborn (Series 3—6)
  • John Burgess as Dr. Len Croker (Series 2—6)
  • Gary Mavers as Colin Budd (Series 1—6, 9, 11—12)


Series 1 (1987)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–4"Wolf to the Slaughter"Clive ExtonJohn Davies2 August 1987 (1987-08-02) — 23 August 1987 (1987-08-23)
Part 1: One evening, someone messes up a love-nest on a side street in a small country town. The carpet is soaked with human blood, but there is no body to be found. Meanwhile, a beautiful, promiscuous woman goes missing - as does the bundle of cash she was carrying. But Wexford and Burden have different theories about the disappearance of the eccentric Anita Margolis. Part 2: Who is Ann? Who is Geoff Smith? Who sent the anonymous letter? Inspector Wexford and his team appear nowhere nearer solving the mystery. Perhaps if the missing girl's body could be located things would becomes clearer. But where to begin? Part 3: A gold lighter is found and provides a vital clue to the girl's disappearance. Its inscription reads 'For the girl who lights up my life' but which girl? And where is the body? Part 4: Wexford and his colleagues now knows the identity of Anita Margolis's killer, but there is a problem - he died some 18 months before the murder. Are the detectives' investigations at a halt?

Series 2 (1988)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–3"A Guilty Thing Surprised"Clive ExtonMary McMurray19 June 1988 (1988-06-19) — 3 July 1988 (1988-07-03)
Wexford finds he is dealing with a very nasty case when nature-loving Elizabeth Nightingale is murdered on one of her nightly walks through the woods around Myfleet Manor.
4–6"Shake Hands Forever"Clive ExtonDon Leaver23 September 1988 (1988-09-23) — 7 October 1988 (1988-10-07)
Angela Hathall is murdered, but Wexford can find no motive and no suspect. Maybe she picked up a stranger who killed her? The line Wexford follows alienates not just his colleagues, including Mike Burden, but his wife, too.
7"No Crying He Makes"Paula MilneMary McMurray23 December 1988 (1988-12-23)
At Christmas, Wexford and Burden are called to the Kingsmarkham Hospital. A baby has been stolen from its pram and another baby left behind in its place, and it seems that the mother of the stolen child may also be in danger.

Series 3 (1989)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–3"No More Dying Then"Geoffrey CaseJan Sargeant22 October 1989 (1989-10-22) — 5 November 1989 (1989-11-05)
Wexford investigates the disappearance of John Lawrence, a five-year-old boy. After he goes missing, mad, taunting letters begin to arrive, involving another child who vanished, Stella Rivers.
4–6"A Sleeping Life"Roger MarshallBill Hays12 November 1989 (1989-11-12) — 26 November 1989 (1989-11-26)
Wexford investigates when the dead body of a middle aged woman is found - but there are very few clues to the woman's life, let alone those that might lead to her killer.
7"The Veiled One"Trevor PrestonMary McMurray17 December 1989 (1989-12-17)
Gwen Robson, a middle-aged housewife who may have been a blackmailer, is found garotted in the car park of a suburban shopping mall. Wexford is no sooner on the case than a car bomb goes off and all but kills him, putting him in hospital. This leaves Mike Burden with the task of solving the case, but does he go off on the wrong scent? Is Wexford's analysis any better, though?

Series 4 (1990)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–3"Some Lie and Some Die"Matthew JacobsSandy Johnson30 September 1990 (1990-09-30) — 14 October 1990 (1990-10-14)
The Kingsmarkham rock festival is going smoothly until the disfigured body of a local girl, thought to be living in London, is found in a nearby quarry. Wexford investigates the links between a charismatic singer and a young woman gone bad.
4–6"The Best Man to Die"John BrownHerbert Wise21 October 1990 (1990-10-21) — 4 November 1990 (1990-11-04)
Wexford joins forces with a bridegroom when his best man is killed at the stag party. And Charlie Hatton's death is only the first in a string of murders which seem to be about cheating husbands, loose women and gangsters.
7–8"An Unkindness of Ravens"Robert SmithJohn Gorrie11 November 1990 (1990-11-11) — 18 November 1990 (1990-11-18)
Rodney Williams disappears and then his body found in the woods. Wexford investigates and finds more than one mystery.
9"Put on by Cunning"Trevor PrestonSandy Johnson24 December 1990 (1990-12-24)
When a world-famous flautist is murdered, Wexford wonders if his recently returned daughter had anything to do with it. He becomes obsessed with proving that she is an imposter, even getting permission to travel as far afield as the USA and France to do so.

Series 5 (1991)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–3"A New Lease of Death"Peter BerryHerbert Wise29 September 1991 (1991-09-29) — 13 October 1991 (1991-10-13)
Wexford's first ever successful murder case comes back to haunt him when a vicar starts to rake up the past. Was the man hanged on Wexford's evidence actually innocent?
4–6"Murder Being Once Done"Matthew JacobsJohn Gorrie20 October 1991 (1991-10-20) — 3 November 1991 (1991-11-03)
Wexford collapses from overwork so is put on a month's leave. Instead of resting though, he decides to go and visit Mike, who is seconded to London. Although he should be resting, Wexford's dreams have drawn him towards Mike's case of a young murdered girl left lying in a vault, and a strong connection to the baby adoption business.
7–8"From Doon with Death"George BakerMary McMurray10 November 1991 (1991-11-10) — 17 November 1991 (1991-11-17)
Margaret Parsons, a fairly ordinary housewife who, with her water board official husband Ron, has recently moved to Kingsmarkham, is found murdered in a field. Mrs. Parsons led an extremely uneventful life, being a lay preacher, but Inspector Wexford is intrigued when he is looking through her belongings and fine a number of expensive antique books all inscribed 'From Doon to Minna'. Who is Doon?
9–10"Means of Evil"Peter BerrySarah Hellings24 November 1991 (1991-11-24) — 1 December 1991 (1991-12-01)
Inspector Wexford is confronted with a murder in a vegetarian family and wonders how many kinds of mushrooms there are.
11"Achilles' Heel"Guy HibbertSandy Johnson26 December 1991 (1991-12-26)
When Wexford and Burden go on a holiday to France together with their wives, they meet an alluring English couple. Reg becomes transfixed by the wife, and is shocked when he gets back home to hear she has been kidnapped.

Series 6 (1992)

This was the last series to solely feature Inspector Wexford. Subsequent series shifted focus onto other characters previously featured in short stories by Rendell.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1–3"The Speaker of Mandarin"Trevor PrestonHerbert Wise27 September 1992 (1992-09-27) — 11 October 1992 (1992-10-11)
Having attended a police conference in China, Wexford joins a group of British tourists in Hong Kong including former barrister Adam Knighton and his wife Adela — not the most loving of couples. On return to Kingsmarkham he learns that Mrs. Knighton, who lived nearby, was murdered in an apparent robbery. Burden suspects that an ex-con with a grudge against Mr. Knighton may be responsible, but draws blanks. Wexford is convinced that the death is linked to something that happened in China and interrogates the holidaying party.
4–5"The Mouse in the Corner"George BakerRob Walker18 October 1992 (1992-10-18) — 25 October 1992 (1992-10-25)
Tom Peterlee, a member of a large family who live in three adjoining cottages, is murdered. His mother Eva is, in Wexford's opinion, quite cavalier in reaction to his death, and other family members are no more helpful. Heather, his widow, seems dumb with grief, and his brother and meek sister-in-law are similarly evasive. Family friend Carol is more forthcoming, providing Heather with an alibi, but Wexford is sure that one of the Peterlees is the killer. Burden has problems of his own when his daughter starts dating a married man, and a series of ram-raids in Kingsmarkham add to Wexford's problems.
6–7"An Unwanted Woman"Rosemary Anne SissonJenny Wilkes1 November 1992 (1992-11-01) — 8 November 1992 (1992-11-08)
When a 92-year old lady dies, Wexford becomes suspicious that there was more to it than old age, and begins an investigation into the slightly sinister elderly retired community surrounding her.
8–11"Kissing the Gunner's Daughter"Matthew JacobsMary McMurray15 November 1992 (1992-11-15) — 6 December 1992 (1992-12-06)
When an off-duty DS Martin tries to be a hero during a bank robbery, not only does he get shot, but it also triggers a chain of events involving murders and deceit.

Series 7 (1992—1994)

This series was the first series not to feature Inspector Wexford, with focus being shifted to other leading characters from Rendell's repertoire of short stories.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Talking to Strange Men"Julian BondJohn Gorrie27 December 1992 (1992-12-27)
A man's obsession with his estranged wife hits boiling point when the investigation into his sister's murder is re-opened.
2"Master of the Moor: Part 1"Trevor PrestonMarc Evans2 September 1994 (1994-09-02)
An ecology writer finds himself under suspicion of murder after an artist he meets on the moors is found murdered.
3"Master of the Moor: Part 2"Trevor PrestonMarc Evans9 September 1994 (1994-09-09)
When a second body is found, the police's suspicion of Steven continues to grow, despite his psychological issues.
4"Master of the Moor: Part 3"Trevor PrestonMarc Evans16 September 1994 (1994-09-16)
A third woman is found dead, but Stephen thinks he can finally identify the suspect he saw on the moor that day.

Series 8 (1995)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Vanity Dies Hard: Part 1"Julian BondAlan Grint24 March 1995 (1995-03-24)
A wealthy orphan who is about to move house disappears without a trace the night before she is due to leave.
2"Vanity Dies Hard: Part 2"Julian BondAlan Grint31 March 1995 (1995-03-31)
Further revelations about Nesta's private life begin to emerge, leading Alice to believe she has been murdered.
3"Vanity Dies Hard: Part 3"Julian BondAlan Grint7 April 1995 (1995-04-07)
Nesta's affair comes to light, while Alice begins to suspect that the letters she received have been faked.
4"The Strawberry Tree: Part 1"George BakerHerbert Wise21 April 1995 (1995-04-21)
A young housewife begins to wonder at whatever happened to her brother and cousin, who disappeared in Majorca several years ago.
5"The Strawberry Tree: Part 2"George BakerHerbert Wise28 April 1995 (1995-04-28)
When Piers and Rosario turn up out of the blue, Petra begins to question them over their whereabouts.

Series 9 (1996)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Heartstones"Guy MeredithPiers Haggard1 January 1996 (1996-01-01)
A sixteen-year-old girl is angered when her father brings home a new woman shortly after her mother's death, and swears revenge.
2"Simisola: Part 1"Alan PlaterJim Goddard26 January 1996 (1996-01-26)
Wexford investigates a complex case involving the disappearance of a Nigerian doctor's daughter, which is only made more complicated when the last person to see her alive is found murdered.
3"Simisola: Part 2"Alan PlaterJim Goddard2 February 1996 (1996-02-02)
Wexford arrests his burglary suspect, but a routine search of his house uncovers a body, which he suspects may be that of Dr. Akande's missing daughter.
4"Simisola: Part 3"Alan PlaterJim Goddard9 February 1996 (1996-02-09)
With his best witness still comatose, Wexford deduces that the unidentified dead girl was an abused servant, so he seeks the truth in the homes of the well-to-do.
5"The Secret House of Death: Part 1"John HarveyJim Goddard8 March 1996 (1996-03-08)
A lonely divorcée becomes involved with a neighbour whose wife and her lover carried out a suicide pact.
6"The Secret House of Death: Part 2"John HarveyJim Goddard15 March 1996 (1996-03-15)
Unaware that Bob and Magdalene are the adulterers who murdered their spouses and faked the suicide pact, Susan offers her neighbour comfort, which he pretends to accept in order to find out how much she knows.
7"A Case of Coincidence: Part 1"Geoffrey CaseGavin Millar22 March 1996 (1996-03-22)
After four attractive women are found strangled in and around the local river, the free-spirited wife of a London doctor is killed while on an extramarital assignation.
8"A Case of Coincidence: Part 2"Geoffrey CaseGavin Millar29 March 1996 (1996-03-29)
The investigation leads to Eddie Brannel, a mentally challenged childhood friend of Sara's, and although he admits to the other killings, he denies killing her.

Series 10 (1997)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Double"Piers HaggardMary McMurray3 January 1997 (1997-01-03)
Two identical women, one virginal and good and the other sexy and seductive, vie for the affections of a young stockbroker.
2"A Dark Blue Perfume"Peter RansleySandy Johnson10 January 1997 (1997-01-10)
A middle-aged man is still haunted by a love affair from his youth which almost ended in murder.
3"Bribery and Corruption: Part 1"Guy MeredithMike Vardy17 January 1997 (1997-01-17)
A recent college graduate believes he loves the wife of his father's former friend, but young Nicholas does not know that she's having an affair with his father.
4"Bribery and Corruption: Part 2"Guy MeredithMike Vardy24 January 1997 (1997-01-24)
Nick's father remains in a coma after a suicide attempt as the police make him a prime suspect in his lover's murder, but young Nick and Annabel conduct their own investigation.
5"Thornapple"Roy MacGregorMary McMurray31 January 1997 (1997-01-31)
A twelve year old boy is dazzled when is older cousin comes to stay, but is suspicious when her aunt unexpectedly dies and leaves her a large sum of money in her will.
6"May and June: Part 1"Ken BlakesonJames Cellan Jones7 February 1997 (1997-02-07)
After a lifetime of sibling rivalry, mousy May accepts an invitation from her recently-widowed younger sister June, to live with her in her elegant home.
7"May and June: Part 2"Ken BlakesonJames Cellan Jones14 February 1997 (1997-02-14)
After accepting her sister's offer of reconciliation, May emerges from her mousy shell and seduces her sister's lover.
8"Front Seat"Alex FergusonSandy Johnson21 February 1997 (1997-02-21)
When Cecily Branksome retires back to her old home town over her husband's objections, she becomes involved with her boorish old boyfriend and a 30 year old murder.

Series 11 (1998)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Going Wrong: Part 1"Julian BondMatthew EvansTBA2 June 1998 (1998-06-02)
A successful businessman runs into his old girlfriend. Although she treats him politely, his rekindled feelings to her border on nothing less than obsession.
2"Going Wrong: Part 2"Julian BondMatthew EvansTBA9 June 1998 (1998-06-09)
Guy's obsession with his old girlfriend Leonora grows and he becomes convinced that someone close to her is poisoning her against him.
3"Going Wrong: Part 3"Julian BondMatthew EvansTBA11 June 1998 (1998-06-11)
Invited to Leonora and William's for dinner, Guy goes mad when he learns that they will be moving to Manchester and attacks William.
4"Road Rage: Part 1"George BakerBruce McDonald10.518 November 1998 (1998-11-08)
Wexford investigates when a young German girl mysteriously disappears from outside a pub, and a group of environmentalist stage a sit in to prevent a bypass from being built through a forest.
5"Road Rage: Part 2"George BakerBruce McDonald9.069 November 1998 (1998-11-09)
Wexford's wife Dora is released by the terrorists, but young Roxanne is found dead, and young Ryan has apparently defected to the terrorists.
6"You Can't Be Too Careful"Ted WhiteheadMatthew Evans5.8124 December 1998 (1998-12-24)
Prim businesswoman Della Galway has a compulsive penchant for double-locking doors - but her new roommate is careless about security.
7"The Orchard Walls"Jacqueline HolboroughGwennan Sage6.3031 December 1998 (1998-12-31)
A bright young teenage girl is 'farmed out' to relatives in the rural West Country during the Battle of Britain, and makes many astute observations about life there.

Series 12 (1999—2000)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"The Lake of Darkness"Peter J. HammondBruce MacDonald7.333 May 1999 (1999-05-03)
Quiet accountant Martin wins the lottery, but things take a turn for the worse when he meets Francesca, who is not what she seems.
2"The Fallen Curtain"Douglas LivingstoneMatthew Evans6.666 August 1999 (1999-08-06)
Richard Brazier has a mental block about his abduction as an eight year old and is haunted by what may or may not have happened.
3"Harm Done"Christopher RussellBruce MacDonald9.7811 October 2000 (2000-10-11)
Wexford copes with two abductions of teen-aged girls, the disappearance of a three year old from her bedroom, and the return of a paroled paedophile to the town.

Media releases

The first six series were released on VHS on 21 January 2000 via IMC Vision. This was shortly before the rights to Television South were purchased by ABC Family Worldwide, which has subsequently led to all other TVS programmes being unavailable for commercial release on VHS on DVD. Subsequently, the remaining six series were released on DVD on 9 April 2007, as The Best Of Ruth Rendell Mysteries, via Network. As these series were not produced by TVS, the licensing rights became available for a DVD release. However, four episodes were omitted ("Heartstones", "The Strawberry Tree", "Thornapple" and "Talking to Strange Men"), none of which have ever been commercially released. Again, the remaining six series were released on DVD in the United States on 24 June 2008. Series seven-twelve have since been repeated on ITV3 and ITV Encore, however, once again the four episodes omitted from the DVD were not broadcast, suggesting that the licensing rights for these episodes are no longer available.

Series Year # of Episodes Format Release Dates Notes
Series 1 1987 4 VHS 21 January 2000[1] Never released on DVD due to issue with Television South licensing rights.
Series 2 1988 7 3 x VHS
21 January 2000[2][3][4]
30 May 2016[5]
Never released on DVD in the UK due to issue with Television South licensing rights. Released on DVD for the first time in Germany in May 2016.
Series 3 1989 7 3 x VHS 21 January 2000[6][7][8] Never released on DVD due to issue with Television South licensing rights.
Series 4 1990 9 4 x VHS
21 January 2000[9][10][11][12]
30 May 2016[5]
Never released on DVD in the UK due to issue with Television South licensing rights. "Some Lie and Some Die" and "The Best Man to Die" released on DVD for the first time in Germany in May 2016.
Series 5 1991 11 5 x VHS
21 January 2000[13][14][15][16][17]
30 May 2016[18]
Never released on DVD in the UK due to issue with Television South licensing rights. "Murder Once Being Done" and "Achilles Heel" released on DVD for the first time in Germany in May 2016.
Series 6 1992 11 4 x VHS
21 January 2000[19][20][21][22]
30 May 2016[18]
Never released on DVD in the UK due to issue with Television South licensing rights. "The Mouse in the Corner" and "Kissing the Gunner's Daughter" released on DVD for the first time in Germany in May 2016.
Series 7 1992-1994 4 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Episode 1, "Talking to Strange Men", is not included in this set and has never been commercially released.
Series 8 1995 5 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Episodes 4-5, "The Strawberry Tree", are not included in this set and has never been commercially released.
Series 9 1996 8 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Episode 1, "Heartstones", is not included in this set and has never been commercially released.
Series 10 1997 8 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Episode 5, "Thornapple", is not included in this set and has never been commercially released.
Series 11 1998 7 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Includes all seven episodes.
Series 12 1999-2000 3 DVD 9 April 2007[23] Includes all three episodes.


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