Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise, Series 4 Episode 1

Elias Thomson runs a rum plantation on the island of Saint Marie, but the business is failing. Workers are disturbed that the plantation is haunted by the ghost of Mama Beth, a worker killed during the nineteenth century, so Thomson arranges a séance to banish the ghost – or at least the story of the ghost – forever. As the group link hands in the small room – you know the sort of thing, with no hiding places and a squeaky door – the candle suddenly goes out. A bell rings. And Elias collapses, stabbed in the back. But everyone in the room was still holding each other hands. Surely Mama Beth herself wasn’t responsible…Death In Paradise

Enter DI Humphrey Goodman and his team Camille, Duane and… hang on, Fidel’s gone, so he’s replaced by Commissioner Patterson (in the short term). Can Humphrey manage working with his boss, his attempts to woo Camille and solve an impossible murder? All in a day’s work on Saint Marie.

Series Four kicked off in grand style last night. Just a quick review, but this was a clear demonstration of the strength of this series. Endearing characters ( the Humphrey/Camille story was beautifully handled, when it had the potential to be embarrassing, and bonus points for not doing the “incompetent boss” storyline) , a spooky atmosphere throughout the episode (without making one of the characters actually believe in ghosts) and, most importantly, a fairly-clued complex mystery that is perfectly solvable but that completely fooled me.

In fact, I had a lovely theory about how Elias could have been killed – in fact, it was a simple way to get round the holding hands idea that got stuck in my head and wouldn’t go away – but of course it was completely wrong. That’s twice Robert Thorogood has fooled me in a week. Grrrrr (in a good way!)

So welcome back Kris Marshall, Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules and Don Warrington and hello to Joséphine Jobert. Here’s to another seven weeks of me completely getting it wrong!

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18 comments

  1. I enjoyed it thoroughly, came up with an explanation for the holding hands part of the puzzle, but they had a different one. Not convinced it would have been easy to pull off as explained without being spotted, but even the improbable can be made to work, so I’m OK with it. Looking forward to next week.

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  2. My idea involved two people sitting next to each other and working in cahoots to murder the victim. As I said, the more I think about it the more unwieldly and implausible it becomes. Both your solution and the official one are more satisfying.

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  3. Just seen this during a massive rainstorm in Java, which helped with the atmosphere. It was good, a big improvement on much of Series 3, although I thought the final revelation was much better than the explanation for the seance. Almost as good as the similar revelation back in Series 1.

    I like Death in Paradise, but sometimes it doesn’t get the exposition balance right. There’s a lot of information dumps, which are handled about as gracefully as possible for that kind of material, but a lot of the time it’s not what the audience is going to want to know. Here I think we needed more about the mechanics of the puzzle, particularly the bell. It was barely mentioned, despite being crucial. In fact, the only thing we learn about the bell is misinformation – Humphrey touches it lightly and it falls over. I think in retrospect this was just a throwaway joke about him being clumsy, but I took it as a clue that it was very light, possibly light enough to blow like the candle.

    I’d like to see a two-parter. With the amount of exposition and recapping they have, the hour-long format is starting to feel very formulaic. I’ve ordered the book and I’m looking forward to reading it; I imagine that’s a much better format for Thorogood’s plotting style.

    Incidentally, seance murders are probably my favourite impossible crime after lift murders. The best I’ve seen is easily the two-parter from Season 1 of Detective Academy Q. A really audacious setup and solution, with some incredibly clever clues. Like all the best mysteries, I think most people will get it JUST before the solution is revealed.

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    • I thought episode two a bit of a let-down. Three was better: I only figured out the how when Humphrey did as they showed the flashback montage. Actually I should’ve spotted it sooner, since it’s the same ‘how’ used in an episode of Jim Hutton’s ‘Ellery Queen’ that I’ve seen about a half-dozen times.

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      • I got it at that point too, although from a couple of Paul Doherty books that have a very similar trick.

        As for Episode 2, I liked it a lot, as again it suckered me into a second solution that never materialised, involving dropping a surfboard on the sand, running across it and then throwing the board through the open window…

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  4. […] 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 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. […]

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