So we’re halfway through Series Four of Death In Paradise – you know, possibly the only current television show with properly constructed mysteries. Seriously, did you see Midsomer Murders the other night? Fun, yes, but someone tossed a coin in the final section to decide who the killer was. Not so with Death In Paradise.
Of course, it’s great fun to watch as well. Apart from the entertaining performances by the cast – in particular Kris Marshall who’s really blossomed this series and Sara Martins, who has perfected a look of sheer exasperation at Humphrey’s antics, the fun for me is playing along. Can I work out the mystery before the suspects are gathered?
I was a little concerned about this series. At this point in Series Three, the score was Death In Paradise 0 – Puzzle Doctor 4. With the exception of the opening episode, which I felt that I solved, the other three struck me as really obvious. So what’s the score this time?
So far? Death In Paradise 3.5 – Puzzle Doctor 0.5. And that’s a generous 0.5…
By the way, there’s a couple of sort of spoilers in this article in the sense that I’m going to detail a couple of wrong solutions that I fell for. It might indicate people who aren’t the killer if you haven’t seen the episodes. You’ve been warned. But I’m not even going to hint at the end of episode four…
Oh, and I’m only counting the points if I worked out the whole story – just guessing the killer doesn’t count.
Episode One – The Séance One. The killer is quite guessable, but even so, there’s so much macabre backstory – all of it clued – that guessing isn’t good enough. But I had a theory as to how someone was killed in the séance without breaking the circle – after all, the victim wouldn’t be able to say that someone let go of his own hand. Absolute nonsense and probably practically impossible but it was a convincing enough theory to make me get it wrong. 1 – 0. More details on this one here.
Episode Two – The Surfing One. Sort of got this one. A large part of the motive was spotted, plus the guilty party but the locked room fooled me. There was the simple method that was wrong but pointed me in the right direction and a lovely theory involving crossing the unbroken sand by lying a surfboard across it and then throwing it back through the window (hence scattering the boards). Going to call this a score draw. 1.5 – 0.5
Episode Three – The Re-enactment One. No clue on this one – got the method when Humphrey flashes back over the facts but I reckon that’s too late. 2.5 – 0.5
Episode Four – The Hen Party One. Completely fooled by the red herring. The same idea that helped me solve a couple of Series Three episodes, namely one of Dame Agatha’s laziest tricks, was (I suspect deliberately) used to trick me into looking the wrong way. The salt thing was a bit of a trick but it’s explained before the denouement, so fair enough. 3.5 – 0.5
The thing is, that’s the sort of score that I want. I want the show to beat me because if I can spot the killer, then it’s not as much fun. I want to be fooled by puzzles that I ought to be able to solve – it’s much more entertaining that way. And by that measure, this series is a complete success so far – and the addition of the rather touching Humphrey-Camille dynamic makes it even more of an essential watch.
So there’s still time for me to level the score – but I really hope that I don’t. And if you haven’t tried the series – having believed those reviews that dismiss it as “just Midsomer Murders in the sun” – then it’s well past time that you did. Highly Recommended.
And to get a flavour of the show, why not try A Meditation On Murder by showrunner Robert Thorogood? It features the first star of the show, Ben Miller’s Richard Poole, but it’s a great puzzler of a mystery.