It’s time to return to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie for another series of Death in Paradise mysteries. I was late in discovering the show and have been binge-watching it, writing these posts as I go.
In my previous post about the show I covered the third series which brought about the first changes to the show’s regular cast. This fourth series features some further changes with two departures and two additions.
Sergeant Best is the first to depart but, to my frustration, this has happened off screen in the gap between series three and four. Having invested in and liked the character it is a shame that he didn’t get a proper farewell.
I was a little better prepared for the second departure of the series as Camille is written out. While it is still pretty abrupt given that earlier episodes in the season were still playing with the possibility of a romance with Goodman, this is at least handled throughout the course of the story and the moment of departure feels satisfying, providing some closure.
Happily I liked both of the additions a lot, feeling that they both brought something new to the show. Joséphine Jobert is charming as DS Florence Cassell, establishing quite a different relationship with DI Goodman than her predecessor that focuses more on her professional skills than their interpersonal relationship. That being said, there are some nice moments between the pair that suggest strong mutual respect developing by the end of this series.
Officer J. P. Hooper is youthful and enthusiastic while adding a serious streak that makes him a solid foil for Dwayne. He gets quite a lot to do here and does grow a little over the series.
In terms of the cases I think that this raised the standard from the previous series. Several cases presenting interesting problems to solve, Swimming in Murder defeating me completely. Even the weaker cases possess interesting subplots and guest performances making for a consistently entertaining run of episodes.
Episode One: Stab in the Dark
Written by Robert Thorogood
Synopsis: A rum distillery owner gathers his family around to conduct a séance to get rid of a spirit that his workers believe haunts a storeroom. All of the people in the room are holding hands when the lights go out and moments later he is found stabbed in the back. Everyone present insists that the circle was not broken and no one was seen entering the room so how was the murder committed?
Review: I found the mystery to be one of the cleverest the series has offered up until this point. Thorogood has constructed an ingenious web of alibis and motives so I was really satisfied when everything is revealed at the end. The killer’s motivation is credible and I felt the explanation of how it was done was really convincing.
The episode’s secondary plot which pairs Commissioner Selwyn with Dwayne to be very amusing. The conceit is that he is lending a hand with the investigation because the team are a person down after Sergeant Best has been transferred off the island. My only disappointment with this is that the character’s move takes place off-screen as it would have been nice to give him a proper send-off.
Episode Two: Hidden Secrets
Written by Simon Winstone
Synopsis: The owner of a surf school is found shot to death inside a hut that has been locked from the inside. The only other exit is a window but the sand outside is wet and would show any footprints. The victim has recently taken out a life insurance policy but Goodman doesn’t think it is suicide.
Review: The second episode of the season presents a solid locked room problem to solve. There are no shocking developments but I think it builds to a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed the secondary-plotlines more though – particularly Dwayne’s efforts to impress the new member of the team which were very entertaining.
Episode Three: Damned If You Do…
Written by Tom Higgins
Synopsis: The leader of the Saint Marie Heritage Society is poisoned on the eve of an event celebrating the conquest of the island.
Review: There is a lot going on in this story and most of it is very successful. In particular I felt that the plot was cleverly worked. I thought that the way the murder was planned made sense and that there were a particularly interesting mix of suspects with strong motives to kill. A highlight of the season for me.
Episode Four: Until Death Do You Part
Written by Rebecca Wojciechowski
Synopsis: A bride-to-be is found murdered in her bath during a bachelorette holiday. The women were new to the island so suspicion falls on her bridesmaids.
Review: I found this an entertaining mystery though I managed to spot a critical detail very early in the story that left me certain who did it and why. That being said, this is fairly clued and I think the suspects are interesting while the story’s B-plot featuring the personal lives of the team is also very strong.
Episode Five: Swimming in Murder
Written by Ian Kershaw
Synopsis: A rock group who had released just one album in the early nineties have reformed to record new material in a studio on the island. After a dispute between several of the members during recording, the lead singer goes to the pool for a swim where he is electrocuted.
Review: Once again there is a lot to like in this story starting with guest appearances from Sally Phillips and Neil Morrissey. The mystery is one of the most inventively worked in the series to date and I will confess to being beaten by the solution. Add in some really strong exploration of the team’s dynamics and you have one of the strongest episodes of the series.
Episode Six: The Perfect Murder
Written by Mark Brotherhood
Synopsis: A volleyball player is found stabbed in the chest shortly before the final of the Inter-Island Beach Volleyball Championship.
Review: I am usually a little wary of any crime stories with the word perfect in the title. It seems to be asking for a contrary opinion. Still, I can’t find fault with this excellent episode.
The case is a clever one that, once again, had me stumped. This time it was because I was certain I had solved the significance of a clue that DI Goodman spends most of the story considering but it turns out that I was way off. Whoops.
In addition the material around the case with the team is particularly strong here. Part of it is the rivalry that Commissioner Selwyn has with one of the suspects, the Governor Elect from a nearby island, which is played quite brilliantly. Both Darryl and JP also get some entertaining moments. The only thing that I think didn’t work was a hot peppers joke and that is really because a previous episode had featured a similar gag.
Episode Seven: She Was Murdered Twice
Written by Dana Fainaru
Synopsis: A businesswoman is shot in her cabin in the night during a corporate team building retreat.
Review: I found a lot to like in this story starting with a very good guest turn from Matthew Lewis, an actor best known for his role as Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies.
The crime itself is quite clever and the solution was fairly original.
Episode Eight: Unlike Father, Unlike Son
Written by Matthew Barry
Synopsis: A prisoner awaiting trial is shot in his cell behind several sets of locked doors. How did the killer make it inside and where was the weapon hidden? Meanwhile Goodman’s father has arrived on the island to see him and is not shy about expressing his disapproval.
Review: A very solid finale to this fourth series though the case is not one of the more memorable ones. The solution to the locked cell problem was fairly familiar and not particularly interesting in its mechanics while several other aspects of the case were signposted a little too clearly in the dialogue. Still, the material around the mystery is fun. James Fox is excellent casting as Goodman’s disapproving father and I liked the tension between J.P. and Dwayne that runs throughout the episode.