Death in Paradise: This gentle island-set murder mystery starring Ben Miller is the perfect programme to counter the winter blues

by Matt D


The period after Christmas can be a depressing time as there is very little to look forward to apart from bad weather and the increasing cost of the weekly shop. Thankfully the BBC has provided some escapism in the form of the second series of Death in Paradise. The show stars Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole a straight-laced British detective who in series one ended up on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie following the death of another policeman. After deciding to stay on the island series two sees Poole with his feet firmly under the desk, even if he still insists on wearing a suit in the baking sunshine, as he investigates more murders on this small island which is on its way to having the same sort of body count as Midsomer.

As well as the obvious Midsomer comparison there is something very Agatha Christie about Death in Paradise as it often features rich people who live in grand houses being bumped off just before they can deliver a big announcement. This week’s example is plantation owner Roger Seymour who gathers together members of his family for said announcement however before he can say anything he is found with a huge knife sticking out of the back of his neck. It’s not long before Poole and his attractive DS Camille Bordey are on their way to the plantation and shockingly discover that everybody has a motive. For example his young lover Kim Neville would possibly want to off him after he changed his will to leave everything in her name however she denies this as she claims his big announcement was that they were to be married. Roger’s nephew Alex had also got into several rows with his uncle about his running of the plantation which had been in their family for generations. Then there’s Roger’s ex-wife Nicole, gloriously played by Stephanie Beacham, who would possibly want revenge for ending their long marriage to be with his much young new love. Poole also discovers that the majority of Seymour’s staff hated the way he ran the plantation with the exception of Louis a young man who was also invited to the dinner that never happened. The murder is also significant as the Seymour plantation is famous on Saint-Marie as it was the place where fifty slaves went missing never to be seen again. In addition the plantation has caused controversy in the past after several of their workers have died while using their machinery and one of these deaths could in some way be a motive for Roger’s death. Of course by the end of the episode Poole has not only solved Seymour’s murder, by doing the classic detective trick of gathering the suspects together, but has also revealed how the original slaves escaped and why the Neville’s staff members considered them to be devils.

Running alongside the murder story is Poole’s further integration into life on Saint-Marie and Camille’s attempt to get him to embrace the culture. This is represented by the island celebrating an ancient voodoo Goddess of Love which for Camille means tolerating a blind date set up for her by her mother. The story surrounding this festival is fairly slight however to me it suggests that the writers are planning to add a romantic angle to the relationship between Camille and Poole which I personally think is a bit of a mistake as it would spoil their chemistry. However it does seem that this is the direction they are going after Camille is slightly upset that Poole isn’t her mystery date but is simply doing her mother a favour.

There’s no doubting the fact that Death in Paradise is incredibly formulaic with the central murder mystery not being incredibly original. I don’t think that’s the point of Death in Paradise though instead it is meant to be a bit of escapism for those trying to escape their winter blues and bury themselves in a traditional mystery programme. Indeed the biggest selling point is the Caribbean scenery with the programme being shot on location in Guadeloupe which in turns means that some big name actors pop up in supporting roles in order to get a working holiday. Here those actors include Stephanie Beacham and Silent Witness’ Tom Ward who are able to inject a bit of personality into their roles of Nicole and Alex respectively. The star of the show though is definitely Ben Miller, who as Richard Poole is the quintessential Brit abroad down to the fact that he still won’t unbutton his suit. The only part of this series I’m not sure about is Poole’s potential romance with Camille which would spoil their platonic relationship which I feel is one of the series’ strengths. Of the rest of the cast I think Sara Martins is the perfect choice for the strong Camille who is great at her job but doesn’t have much luck in the love department.

It’s easy to be sniffy about a programme like Death in Paradise with its clichéd characters and traditional murder mystery storyline however I find it to be likeable comfort TV and it never claims to be anything more. The performances from Miller and Martins keep things ticking along nicely while the fact that this is a murder mystery shows means that audiences don’t have to watch every episode to keep up with the stories. Obviously the Sunkist scenery is another big plus and overall Death in Paradise gives everybody a chance to escape the horrible British winter and instead watch an entertaining mystery set on a beautiful Caribbean island.

Did you enjoy Death in Paradise? Did it help you escape the winter blues? Leave Your Comments Below.

1 Comment

  1. Josie on January 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I agree with this whole-heartedly. It is a wonderful escape during the winter months. I think the romance could still be good if the bickering and awkwardness between them continues. With good writing, this can be pulled off well.

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