Death in Paradise – BBC1 TV Review

I tweeted recently to keep an eye out for “Death in Paradise”, a new BBC1 crime show starring Ben Miller, of Armstrong and Miller fame, as the trailer indicated that the first episode contained what was referred to as “a classic locked room mystery”. This inspired two separate emotions in me – some hope that this was indeed the case and some resignation that it almost certainly wasn’t.

The premise of the show is that Inspector Poole from the London Met has been assigned to Sante-Marie, a Caribbean island paradise, somewhat against his will – his colleagues had his leaving party after he left – to investigate the murder of  his predecessor, shot inside a locked panic room. Of course, given the  nature of this sort of thing, Poole hates everything about the island – sun, sea, sand and lizards – but, given the stereotypical set-up, was it any good?

My opinion of this is possibly a little biased. You see, the day before, I watched an episode of Midsomer Murders (aka Inspector Barnaby in some countries). Midsomer Murders for me is like that pair of slippers that you’ve got with the soles falling off. You know you shouldn’t keep wearing them, but they’re comfy enough. Anyway, this episode was bloody awful. It was misogynistic, stupid, obvious, stupid, and suffered from the usual “guest-star being the murderer” syndrome. Oh, did I mention that it was stupid? Seriously, if you establish early on that there were at least three people involved in the murder, surely the twist should be that it wasn’t the man with two obvious henchmen. I digress. Sorry. But it was so stupid.

The point is, I was hoping for something good here. So much crime drama on the television is centred on the darkness behind the crime that there seems to be little room for the whodunnit and even then, it’s rarely done well. I’ve got a fair bit of time for the US shows that appear over here on Freeview, such as Castle or The Mentalist, and a couple of others that I’ve stumbled across – Psych being the standout favourite, but with the exception of Jonathan Creek, I can’t think of a decent, proper mystery show.

Now we have one. Well, based on the first episode at least. There’s a balance of the mystery plot-strand and the fish-out-of-water strand, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the former taking much more of the screen time. Time was found to discuss the plot without it standing out too much like exposition and there was even time to develop the supporting characters as well. Ben Miller, after what I thought were a couple of odd early scenes, settled into the role quickly – I’m not sure I buy why he was so unpopular back home – and did a good job with it. Lenora Crichlow (Being Human) is excellent as his sidekick and Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) deserves a mention as one of other policemen, the laid-back Duane.

As for the mystery – I worked out most of it, although using meta-methods a bit – you’ll understand if you see it – but it was properly done. There were clues, there were a number of tricks that old hands might recognise but they were mixed up nicely and I wager that a large number of the viewers will have been tricked by the conclusion. The locked room was a newish spin on one of Fell’s methods (Chapter 17 of The Hollow Man) and also reminded
me somewhat  of one episode of Jonathan Creek in particular, but it was well carried out. Cynics would point out that  the murderer needed a lot of luck to get away with it, but that’s hardly new in such a story.

So, overall, I’d recommend this show – get on the iPlayer and watch it as soon as possible. I don’t think it’s a locked room every week, but on the strength of this episode, I’ll be watching this one carefully.


  1. Thanks for this – recorded the first episode but have yet to watch it – some of the reviews I’ve read have been incredibly negative but yours is very encouraging, so shall save t for the weekend – ta!


  2. Some of the negative reviews seemed to dislike the show because it was rather traditional rather than ‘realistic’, but that was the very reason I liked it. The whole thing was plot-driven rather than character driven, which put it at odds with 99% of TV these days. The fact that Poole was a rather eccentric genius instead of a ‘flawed hero fighting his own demons’ meant that I’ll definitely be watching next week. Apparently Ben Miller is a big fan of POIROT, and the whole ‘I’ve gathered you all here to reveal the murderer’ climax had a very poirotesque vibe to it.


  3. My “favourite” comment in one of the newspaper reviews was that “you will have to look elsewhere to find a replacement for Waking the Dead”. Did the reviewer seriously think that this was supposed to be the same sort of thing or does he/she simply view “crime” as a one-size-fits-all genre?


    • By the way, I received a nice tweet from Rob Thorogood, the writer, thanking me for praising the mystery. As it’s just as important to him, this bodes well for the rest of the series.


  4. I’m not going to review it episode by episode, but will do an overall one at the end of the series. I will just say that Episode 2 was just as excellent as Episode 1 – Ben Miller, who seems to have come in for some stick in the reviews, was excellent, as was the rest of the cast, and, in particular, the writing and plotting of this classic-style mystery. Newspapers who compare it to Midsomer Nonsense, shame on you! This is miles better.


  5. I’m finding Death in Paradise a very enjoyable way to spend an hour once a week. I suppose the so-called TV critics don’t like it because it’s not ‘gritty’ enough for them (I too noted the daft comment about Waking the Dead). Their loss…


  6. Episode Three – and hurrah! I worked it out! Very nicely constructed, all the same, and the final twist, I didn’t see coming. And full marks for casting two perennial murderers, Nicholas Farrell and Michael Maloney in the same episode. That certainly makes guessing harder!


  7. Just realised that I hadn’t mentioned the last few episodes – very remiss of me. Anyway, mystery-wise, they seem to have become a little more straightforward (although still classically structured). In particular the gimmick to episode six was, I’m afraid, a bit obvious. Good job the rest of the episode was possibly the most entertaining so far!


  8. i really enjoyed the first showing of this program due to the people who played the caricters to now see it has come back on and the main caricter has changed this has upset me as well…. its just not the same anymore not sure ill keep watching now :/


    • Give it a go. It’s only the main character who’s changed and for a good reason – the actor Ben Miller wanted to spend more time with his family back in the UK. I thought the first episode with Kris Marshall showed real promise so fingers crossed for the rest of the series.


  9. […] So, while the rest of the cast is as strong as ever, I thought Kris Marshall did an excellent job, not filling Ben Miller’s shoes but wearing a pair of similar looking but notably different ones. And I’m looking forward to the rest of the series as much as I ever was. And for those people who fear change – just ask yourself – did you love Richard Poole after the very first episode? […]


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