Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise, Series 11 Episode 1

Well, after the Christmas special being sort of the start of the series, I wasn’t going to do an individual blog on the actual opening episode of series 11. But then I watched it and felt that I needed to… for good reasons, you’ll be pleased to know.

The daughter of a local businessman, Gabriel Taylor, has been kidnapped. After scraping together the ransom money, Gabriel is given strict instructions to deliver the money – place it in an isolated rubbish bin and then drive to an equally isolated telephone box to await confirmation of his daughter’s release. When the ransom is delivered, the daughter is delivered – but at the same time as she is released, a phone call is made from the phone box asking for help.

When the Saint-Marie police arrive, Gabriel is dead, stabbed with a serrated knife which is nowhere to be found. When the truth about the kidnapping comes to light, it makes the murder seem completely impossible. Only a handful of people knew where Gabriel was going to be – and everyone has a cast-iron alibi…

As regular readers of the blog will know, I’m a big Death In Paradise fan – the cast, despite its many changes, always entertains, delivering the gentle humour of the scripts, and the mysteries are (usually) something to get my mental teeth into. I’m also a massive fan of Robert Thororgood’s writing, whether it be his four Death In Paradise novels featuring original sleuth Richard Poole, his recent novel The Marlow Murder Club, definitely the best mystery novel of recent years with the word “Club” in the title, or his episodes of the series he created, i.e. this one. It was a little surprising to find that the last episode he wrote was the first to feature Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker – the one with the bathtub electrocution behind not one but two locked doors.

So I was rather pleased to see that this episode was his return to writing from the series and it did not in any way disappoint. Plotwise, I was scratching my head, and irritating my wife by muttering under my breath, as I tried to work out how any of the characters’ alibis could be broken. Unfortunately, my cunning ideas – well, not that cunning actually – were working in completely the wrong direction. I’m sure some people – and there were a few on Twitter that I saw – claimed to have worked out who the murderer was. I’m guessing that this is the subset of armchair detectives that thinks if you guess the murderer, that counts, as this is a damn clever mystery, with a perfectly logical solution that I would be amazed if anyone worked it out. By creating a relatively simple set-up, with a complex-enough solution, this is, I think, one of the cleverest plots in ages. I was sooo wrong about, well, everyone.

There was so much else to enjoy too. Shantal Jackson makes a great debut as Sergeant Naomi Thomas, quickly revealing that the character has far more layers to her than her initial scene (which is very funny by the way) might show. Pairing her up with Tahj Miles as (apparently no-longer probationary) Officer Marlon Pryce works really well, with an obvious chemistry between them. All credit to Miles, too, as a character who could have ended up just being Dwayne Junior has already become an essential part of the show. Not going into details, but I loved how he dealt with the chicken poo…

And Florence and Neville… well, good to see that this story hasn’t been put on the back burner. After we had Kris Marshall pining over Sara Martins without ever actually doing anything for what seemed like ages, it was good to see this plot is going to keep moving forwards. Just saying though, it had better have a happy ending… Josephine Jobert and Ralf Little do a great job with this stuff (and the show in general) – I do hope the writers know that they’ll have a revolt on their hands if they mess this up. And I do enjoy Elizabeth Bourgine’s role as would-be matchmaker…

All in all, this was a great start to the series, one of the strongest episodes in a long time – and the final scene does set up something interesting for the series…

Oh, and if Robert Thorogood is reading this – it’s 1-0 to you. Game on.


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