The Killings At Badger’s Drift (Chief Inspector Barnaby #1) by Caroline Graham #MidsomerMurders #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog


Author: Caroline Graham

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.

The secondary characters are colourful and eccentric and are, perhaps because they are written rather than seen, more believable than the TV ones. There are several plausible suspects, with secrets of their own and as the story unfolds the tension and panic among the villagers mount, along with the deaths. Barnaby learns much about the village inhabitants from Miss Bellringer, who doesn’t believe for a minute her friend’s death was natural.

As John Nettles explains in the foreword, the stories needed to be simplified for TV so consequently they’re not as rounded or as in depth as the books and have many of the finer details left out.

Still well worth reading if you are a fan of the series, or just enjoy really good crime fiction with a dark and unsavoury side.

About the Author

Caroline Graham, the creator of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, was born in Warwickshire and educated at Nuneaton High School for Girls, and later the Open University. She was awarded an MA in Theatre Studies at Birmingham University, and has written several plays for both radio and theatre. She has been dubbed by The Sunday Times as, ‘Simply the best detective writer since Agatha Christie.

5 thoughts on “The Killings At Badger’s Drift (Chief Inspector Barnaby #1) by Caroline Graham #MidsomerMurders #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. I had exactly the same problem with Troy when I read this after loving the TV programmes. He’s so unlikeable! Sadly it put me off reading them – I think I only read the first two. I bet if I’d read the books first I’d have complained that TV Troy wasn’t right! I actually thought the later TV sidekick whose name I’ve forgotten was more like the Troy in the book – and I didn’t like him much either… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have this first one on my Kindle and I’ve wanted to read it ever since I started watching and loving the show. I probably won’t mind that the characters will be slightly different as I find that is the case with a lot of the crime/detective books turned tv adaptations, but it will be interesting nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

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