First Published in 1987 by Century Hutchinson Ltd
Category: Murder, Mystery, Police Procedural, Book Review
Badger’s Drift is an ideal English village, complete with vicar, bumbling local doctor, and kindly spinster with a nice line in homemade cookies. But when the spinster dies suddenly, her best friend kicks up an unseemly fuss, loud enough to attract the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby. And when Barnaby and his eager-beaver deputy start poking around, they uncover a swamp of ugly scandals and long-suppressed resentments seething below the picture-postcard prettiness.
Miss Simpson and her long time friend, Lucy Bellringer, had an ongoing but friendly rivalry as who could spot the spurred coral root orchid first. Each summer they searched in the beech woods for the rarely flowering bloom and this year Miss Simpson was excited to have the triumphant first sighting. Marking the almost hidden site she turned to return home when a sound stopped her and she tentatively decided to investigate. Miss Simpson saw something she shouldn’t have that day, and unfortunately sealed her fate.
I’ve watched most of the Midsomer Murders series on TV but this is my first foray into the books and as in the series, what appears to be idyllic on the surface hides a measure of rottenness at it’s core. It’s a stretch of course, that such small villages could harbour so mant murderers but that’s half the fun.
DCI Tom Barnaby is a decent family man with no issues or axes to grind. The only snag is his wife’s inability to cook decent food, regardless of Tom and their daughter, Cully, having persuaded her in the past to join a cookery class.
Mrs Barnaby had set off carrying a basket of good things covered with a snowy cloth like a child in a fairy tale. She had come home three hours later with a small leather mat thickly studded with currants, crunchy as bits of coal. She had gone a few more times then given up — out of, she explained, kindness to the teacher. The poor woman, never before having experienced failure on such a monumental scale, had started to get terribly depressed.
The Killings At Badger’s Drift is the first atmospheric outing for DCI Tom Barnaby, out of Causton CID, and is set in the small village of the title name. Slightly dated as the story was written in 1987, but nevertheless it is a very enjoyable, well presented and observed, character driven, complex murder/mystery written with wry humour threaded through the narrative.
The characterisations are excellent although some differ slightly from the TV series, most notably Sergeant Gavin Troy, both in looks and attitude. He is not the likeable character he became in the TV show. In the book he is shown to be quick to judge and his opinions are often petty and negative, which is a shame. It didn’t feel like I was reading about the same person, but perhaps Troy was written this way as to offset Barnaby’s better qualities.
Troy eyed Whitely’s straining calves and biceps caustically. He knew the type. Fancied himself as a stud. Probably couldn’t even get it up without half a dozen beers and a soft porn video.