Murder In The Caribbean (2018) by Robert Thorogood

“What sort of traitor would allow some stranger to interrupt an Englishman just as he was tucking into his egg and chips?”

The sun is beating down on Saint-Marie, and, in his opinion of course, especially on Detective Inspector Richard Poole, the ex-Scotland Yard detective who has been virtually exiled to the island. Of course, as the television cameras have shown, there have been plenty of murders to keep him busy on the island, and when a boat explodes in the harbour, Richard and his team find themselves investigating something unlike any other case they have encountered – a serial killer.

A recently released ex-convict, Pierre Charpentier, is apparently hunting down his former partners-in-crime, those who stayed out of jail and frittered away his money. The killer is determined to get his revenge, just as Richard is determined to stop him. But when you don’t even know who those partners-in-crime are, how can you protect them? And with his face posted on every lamp-post and in every newspaper, how is the killer avoiding detection? Could he have someone helping him plot his revenge?

You clearly haven’t been paying attention if you don’t know how much I love Death In Paradise. Now in its eighth year, it’s a series almost as old as the blog itself, and long may it keeping murdering the population of Saint-Marie. Despite now having a completely different line-up, bar a couple of supporting characters, it has such a distinctive identity, and you can thank series creator and producer Robert Thorogood for that. Not only has he written at least one episode per season (including the very impressive first three episodes), but he has kept Richard Poole alive (oops, spoilers) with a series of books featuring the team from the first two series.

And damn fine books, they are too. As the series has progressed, Robert Thorogood has taken the opportunity to expand beyond the framework of the television series. The first book, A Meditation In Murder, sticks very rigidly to the format, even down to the board in the office with the suspects stuck on it, but now we have a very different book. Multiple murders is new, as is the lack of an impossible crime. The manhunt for Pierre Charpentier is not something that would have been on the television show but in novel format, it works a treat.

Richard is as oddly endearing as ever, with the sub-plot focussing on his obsession with Dwayne’s studying a lot of fun. Dwayne has some time off every week allocated to him studying for his sergeant’s exam, but Richard is convinced he’s just bunking off. The scantily clad woman in Dwayne’s house doesn’t help matters, as you might expect. It’s still early days in the relationship between Richard and his team, and this tale does fill in a gap or two – the ending in particular brought a real smile to my face.

As for the plot – yes, there’s a serial killer on the loose, but needless to say, there’s more to it than meets the eye. I really can’t say any more without giving a couple of games away, but it was one of those mysteries where I twigged what was going on, but felt damn clever to have done so. I think certain beats are guessable for the crime fiction aficionado but despite what Robert Thorogood said when we had a quick chat on Twitter earlier today, I don’t think it’s obvious even when you realise that… well, spoilers.

This is a smashing book (despite the rather generic title), one that I’ve been looking forward to for a while and it didn’t disappoint. One of the most fun mystery novels that I’ve read in a long time. Many thanks to Robert for sending me a copy (with a lovely message inside), but rest assured this is an honest review – and it’s Highly Recommended.

Availability: Murder In The Caribbean was released on December 27th 2018 in paperback and ebook.

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10 comments

  1. I’m delighted that this series of novels continued after the third instalment; I got the impression ‘Death Knocks Twice’ was meant to be the last of the series. I got ‘Murder in the Carribean’ as a Christmas present, and I’m saving it as a special treat – and may only get round to reading it when the fifth novel gets released. 🤩

    Which if the four novels would you say you liked the best? Having read the first three, I’d say ‘Polly Carter’, despite being slightly iffy on fair-play clue-ing at the start, is the strongest offering.

    P.S. Dwayne doing his sergeant’s exams? Given there hasn’t been any change in his rank during the subsequent stints of Humphrey and Jack, I’m presuming he didn’t make the cut. 😅

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    • Well, it is Dwayne after all… and overall, as a classic Locked Room puzzler, I agree with Polly Carter, but I’d like all of them a lot for various reasons. And overall, I think this one edges it a bit…

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  2. I don’t think anything tops the first book for sheer ingenuity. THE KILLING OF POLLY CARTER I completely figured out. But I’ve read way too many books that include that overused plot motif and it was easy to see through it in Thorogood’s book. I just read DEATH KNOCKS TWICE with the locked shower room and was hoping for some devilish ingenuity there, but was utterly disappointed by the blasé solution. It was certainly the funniest of the books. I recently started watching only the TV episodes that were written by Thorogood and have been impressed with the plotting. It’s amazing how many impossible crime and locked room stories that series contains. Some of the other writers approach genuine originality, but too often fall short of the mark. The murder on the boat at sea that turns out to rely on a secret passage, for example. Back in December our local PBS station aired an episode that sounded like it was based on the first novel because it was about a meditation center, but it had a completely different plot with a lame solution to the impossible crime. The latest actor playing the British inspector (Ardal O’Hanlon) doesn’t do much for me at all and I find it hard to watch those episodes. He has a quirky character but the way he plays the character is odd. His acting seems so artificial compared to the other regulars.

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    • Finally find your comments in the spam folder – thanks for the persistence, John. I shared some qualms about Ardal O’Hanlan but I think he’s much more relaxed in the latest series.And yes, Thorogood’s episodes are generally the best ones, but some of the later series have some good ones by other writers – the Series 8 opener in particular I really liked (as I have mentioned in my review).

      With Death Knocks Twice (and this one) I know that Robert was trying to move away from the impossible crime in novel form, so I guess the shower room was shoe-horned in at the later stages. There’s nothing impossible about the latest one – it’s quite different.

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  3. I thought ‘Polly Carter’ was the best thing of its type since John Dickson Carr and I didn’t like ‘Death Knocks Twice’ quite as much. Very much looking forward to this.

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