Miskatonic University Press

Clean Sweep


Back in the nineties I enjoyed listening to The Mystery Project on CBC Radio (later Radio One) every week. They ran original radio dramas, as used to be very common in the old radio days but is pretty much gone now in North America. (There’s a lot of drama on BBC Radio still, and perhaps elsewhere.)

One of my favourites was Clean Sweep, created and mostly written by Alf Silver. It was about Bonnie Marsden (played by Deborah Allen) and her husband Ben (Richard Donat). They live in rural Nova Scotia and the series begins with Bonnie unfairly losing her job at the credit union. Ben lost his job with the parks department a while back when the provincial government changed and there were nepotistic hires; now he’s picking up whatever work is available. They have four kids: the older three have moved out but there’s a little girl at home.

Bonnie starts cleaning houses to make money. This gets her into all kinds of houses around Membertou County, and she notices things. She’s a bit nosy and she’s good at figuring things out. Thus, the mysteries every week. There might be a mysterious death, an arson, some thefts, something fishy about about a son’s interest in his parent’s property, or maybe a strange shape that appears on a wall which can’t be cleaned off.

The writing is good, and the relation between Bonnie and Ben is very well done; they’re generally happy together but go through rough periods. Corporal Kowalchuk, the local Mountie, is played well, and his growing friendship with and respect for Bonnie is nice to hear. The sound design is good (though they were done for AM radio and the files I heard are pretty low quality). This is a solid radio mystery series and you can enjoy listening to several episodes in a row. The only episode I really didn’t like is a bizarre one about a Mennonite former Nazi in hiding.

Someone uploaded all of the episodes to the Internet Archive. If you want to take a break from podcasts and listen to some fine rural Canadian mystery radio dramas, Nova Scotia accents and all, now’s your chance.