Death in Paradise: Series One

DiP1Almost all of the posts on this blog are about mystery novels and short story collections but there are times I like to branch out a little. Death in Paradise has been on the air since 2011 and is something of a locked room fan’s dream. Most of the episodes feature either a locked room or impossible murder, all set against the backdrop of the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie.

The first I heard about the show was when it was announced that Kris Marshall was leaving and people were speculating that he might be the new Doctor Who but I only started watching it after reading some posts from Puzzle Doctor about the show and discovering that it was available here through Netflix.

This first season starred Ben Miller as DI Poole, an English Police Detective who is assigned to the island to investigate the murder of his predecessor. His team takes an episode to settle into place, eventually comprising DS Camille Bordey (Sara Martins), Officer Fidel Best (Gary Carr) and Officer Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules). Élizabeth Bourgine appears as Camile’s mother Catherine and Don Warrington makes several appearances as Commissioner Patterson (though not nearly enough for my tastes – he is one of the best things about the show).

The first episode of the show essentially establishes the concept and DI Poole as a lead character, focusing on his discomfort in his new surroundings. Later episodes continue to explore his awkwardness but within the context of the broader dynamics of his team. These interpersonal relationships are the source of many of the comedic elements found within the show and much of its charm. Even the weaker stories within the season get a lift from this sort of banter though happily the standard of the stories in this season is pretty high.

Highlights from this season include Predicting MurderSpot the Difference and Music of Murder. The first of those stories features a woman prophesying her own death in a voodoo ceremony at the hands of a scarred man before being found dead the following day in her (scarred) ex son-in-law’s classroom. Spot the Difference has the wonderful premise that a man is murdered while handcuffed to DI Poole while Music of Murder features a musician being murdered while he is lying inside a coffin.

There are only a few stories that struck me as being disappointing. The impossibility in Wicked Wedding Night collapses too easily and I felt DI Poole acts a little out-of-character in Missing a Body? although I did enjoy his banter with Camille in that story. Both of those stories are still quite entertaining in spite of the issues I had with them.

Overall I felt that the show had a strong and fairly consistent first series. The storylines were fun and creative and I really enjoyed the interactions of the cast although I was left wanting a little more for Dwayne and Fidel to do (I do think that subsequent seasons give the rest of the team more to do).

Series One Episode Guide

Episode One: Death in Paradise

Written by Robert Thorogood

DeathinParadise0101Synopsis: A British detective is found shot dead inside a locked panic room clutching a travel guide during a party. The room can only be locked from the inside and once the lock is engaged it can only be unlocked with a code kept in the safe in police headquarters.

Review: This episode is as much about introducing us to the characters and the setting as it is the mystery which I am quite alright with. The locked room element of the story is solid even though it uses one of my least favorite locked room solutions and I always enjoy Rupert Graves who is excellent here.

Episode Two: Wicked Wedding Night

Written by Robert Thorogood

WickedWeddingSynopsis: A bride is shot through the chest with a spear and falls from a window on the fifth floor of a hotel. The stairs were alarmed so the only other way to the floor would be in the lift yet the CCTV shows only the bridal party coming up that way.

Review: This episode fleshes out the team, giving each of them small moments that reveal their personalities a little more. The story is entertaining but the sealed door is too easily opened while the identity of the killer is not much of a surprise.

Episode Three: Predicting Murder

Written by Robert Thorogood

PredictingSynopsis: After predicting her own death in a voodoo ceremony, a woman visits her former son-in-law, a school headmaster, in his classroom and is discovered a short while later dead from cyanide poisoning. She said that she would be killed by a scarred man and the headmaster sports a scar below his eye so did he do it?

Review: A very enjoyable episode that has a simple solution but even if you guess it but the process of getting to that solution is thoroughly enjoyable. A revelation at the end of the episode is very effective while Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney and Clare Holman are all excellent guest stars.

Episode Four: Missing a Body?

Written by James Payne

MissingABodySynopsis: A woman comes into the Police Station to confess to killing her husband but when she leads them to the place where she said it took place there are no signs of the body, blood or the weapon.

Review: I am somewhat in two minds about this one. The mystery is clever although it relies on some heavy levels of coincidence to turn out the way it does but I think DI Poole does not behave entirely in keeping with his by-the-books character as established in the previous three episodes with his interest in a murder suspect.

Episode Five: Spot The Difference

Written by Harry Holmes

SpottheDifferenceSynopsis: DI Poole is sent to collect a prisoner who will be serving the remainder of his sentence in a jail on the island. He is handcuffed to him throughout the journey but when the prisoner feels sick they head onto the deck where he is stabbed in the back.

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this episode which has a clever premise. Once again I had little difficulty in figuring out the guilty party but there is a twist within that revelation that is handled extremely well and adds further interest. Extremely well done.

Episode Six: An Unhelpful Aid

Written by Robert Thorogood

UnhelpfulAidSynopsis: With DI Poole confined to his sickbed and Camille away in Paris, Fidel and Dwayne are left to solve the murder of a man found drowned in shallow water.

Review: I found the solution to this jumped out at me straight away as it relies on some familiar impossible crime trickery though the motive takes a little longer to become clear. In spite of that the episode is still pretty entertaining and contains some entertaining banter between Poole and Catherine Borday as he tries to resist her care. Shirley Henderson is fun in her role as the obnoxious DS Angela Young and I appreciated getting to spend a little more time with Dwayne and Fidel.

Episode Seven: Music of Murder

Written by Jack Lothian

MusicofMurderSynopsis: A band reunites for a gig ten years after they split up but when the lead singer makes his entrance several minutes into the performance from inside a coffin he is found dead. All of the band have alibis so who was the killer?

Review: One of the best mysteries in this first season, Music of Murder has a neat (if not strictly impossible) premise and a broad pool of suspects each of whom feel well-drawn and credible. There are a number of aspects of the crime for DI Poole and Camille to work out and I enjoyed the process by which the solution was reached.

Episode Eight: Amongst Us

Written by Robert Thorogood

AmongstUsSynopsis: A woman is found dead in her bed with coins stuffed into her mouth. When DI Poole finds Dwayne’s badge in her home he realizes that he must have been the last person to see her alive and insists on treating him as a suspect.

Review: I found the mystery component of the episode to be fairly forgettable beyond the conflict about how Poole should be treating Dwayne. The material around the mystery though, particularly Poole’s interactions with Commissioner Patterson, is quite entertaining and it does feel like an appropriate series finale.

Further Reading

I have previously reviewed A Meditation on Murder, one of the Death in Paradise novels by Robert Thorogood which I can strongly recommend. I have the others to read and I hope to get back to them (and reading in general) soon.

19 thoughts on “Death in Paradise: Series One

  1. I enjoyed this first series, too, Aidan. And I agree with you that most of the plots are enjoyable and not too contrived. I’ll be interested in what you think of the more recent series. I have to admit, I like the setting, and I think the writers do a solid job of developing the main characters. I look forward to your comments if you watch more of the show.

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    1. Thanks – I am about halfway through the fifth series at this point and had these posts banked for posting on a rainy day. There are definitely more to come.

      Like you I really appreciate the setting and I find the characters really very likeable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating. I loved the first three episodes – you have to bear in mind that the series was trailed with a different recurring cast over here, if you know what I mean – but thought the handcuff episode was soooo obvious that it didn’t work at all for me…

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    1. I do know what you mean – the BBC is really good at pulling off that particular moment you allude to. I wish that sort of thing happened more often in American TV.

      We do share a love of that third episode at least. That remains one of my favorite episodes of the show (I am on Series Five at this point).

      I think I appreciated that the handcuff episode surprised me with a development late on (even if I wasn’t shocked by the solution). I may just have been complacent but I didn’t see it coming and so it stood out as a nice surprise.

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      1. There’s also in that episode what we refer to in our house as the “Richard Briers Factor” namely casting someone famous in an apparently token role… Morse often did a good job with that – in The Infernal Serpent, Geoffrey Palmer (ie UK TV god) is deeply evil but not the killer, but Midsomer Murders never mastered that subtlety… Especially in the Richard Briers episode…

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  3. As PD wrote: fascinating! (Equally fascinating, if infuriating: WordPress isn’t allowing me to “like” comments anymore, on any blog. Now there’s a mystery for ya…) I’m much fonder of “Wicked Wedding Night” than you: in fact, plot-wise it may be my favorite episode of all of them—well, tied with Season 4’s “Stab in the Dark.” You’re right that the murderer isn’t too difficult to spot, but the motive is rather brilliant, I thought (a reverse of the overused Peril at End House gimmick, in many ways). And “Predicting Murder,” we all agree, is just great. 😉

    I should take a look at “Music at Murder” again, as you liked it so much—I don’t really remember that one! On the whole, it’s a fun show, and if its mysteries aren’t too difficult to solve, at least they’re trying.

    It’s fun to see you go through these one-by-one, can’t wait to read your comments on the other seasons!

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    1. Let me throw a fascinating back at you (and PD). That solution stood out a mile to me in part because of the Richard Briers factor PD referenced in one of his comments. I am intrigued though that you both are so fond of it so maybe I need to take another look. I much prefer Stab in the Dark which makes for an interesting comparison. Mechanically I think that one works a lot better.

      I am happy to hear that this was worthwhile. I have another three seasons of comments banked but I expect I will space them out a bit. Hopefully I will figure out my schedule better this week and work in some time for reading!

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      1. Fascinatings all around! 😉 [Minor Spoilers]

        To be honest, it wasn’t the identity of the killer that I liked; as you wrote, it’s kind of obvious. It’s everything else: the duality, the murderer’s mistake (which turns the whole problem on its head, contradicting everything we thought we knew—like a Chesterton story), the clues (the sun, the gloves). It’s the kind of detective story I like, where the whole plot turns on itself.

        Definitely—if the schedule works out, it’ll be great to read your thoughts on these. And happy to read you’re another fan of “Stab in the Dark”!

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      2. I can see what you mean. I think that a challenge an impossible crimes show has is that often aspects of the setup will stand out to viewers who have read a lot of stories of that type. You do make some interesting points though about some of the things in its favor so it will eventually merit a rewatch!

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      3. Thanks!

        Always happy to see posts like these for TV mysteries—I wish mystery TV shows were reviewed more. Jonathan Creek has some of the best impossible crimes ever (don’t tell JJ, but I think Creek, at its best, far surpassed Halter at his own game), and there’s some great stuff in Ellery Queen and Monk. Even Murder, She Wrote has, on occasion, some decent mysteries (“We’re Off to Kill the Wizard,” “Murder Takes the Bus,” “Trial by Error,” “The Grand Old Lady”).

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      4. No need to apologise- it was one of those things I did and then regretted as everything broke for a while… Glad it seems to be working again.

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