Detective Inspector Richard Poole is trapped in his own private hell. Not that anyone else would consider the paradise of Saint-Marie hell, but Richard Poole is a special individual. And, of course, he’s also a damn fine detective. Which is rather handy, given how many murderers seem to be lurking on the island.
Polly Carter, the famous ex-supermodel – well, famous to everyone apart from Richard – has returned to her home on the island with some friends and colleagues in tow. Polly has had a troubled life, but things seem to be getting back on track – or are they? For as Polly takes her wheelchair bound twin sister for a walk, she runs off down a staircase carved into the side of a cliff. Once out of sight to everyone, she screams and is found dead at the bottom of the steps. Suicide? Of course not. A murder weapon is soon found halfway up the stairs – but with nowhere for the murderer to come from or to go to, how on earth was she killed?
As you may recall, Richard Poole was the first lead character in Death In Paradise, played by Ben Miller in the first two series of the show. He was replaced by Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman – one of the most effective change-of-leads that I can think of in TV land that didn’t involve the word “regeneration” – but series creator Robert Thorogood has kept him around with this series of books. The first, A Meditation On Murder, is the most viewed review that I’ve written this year (although it was posted on January 5th) and was very well received, not least by me. The only drawback to this perfectly clued impossible mystery was that the killer was a bit guessable from the structure of the problem. But it was the perfect emulation of a Christie mystery, hinging on a sole misconception that once it’s pointed out, opens up an entirely different picture. But after such a great debut, could the second book match it?
Nope. Because this one is even better. If anything… I’d almost say it was flawless. The plotting is perfect, the clues are plentiful but still baffling. I was chuffed that I worked out part of it but the killer caught me out completely. You could ask a question about why someone believed that something would work but there are clues everywhere that could help you figure it all out… You won’t, but it’s all there.
Add in the humour in the writing and the characters, including the chemistry between Richard and Camille, the curtailing of whose story was the only downside of Miller leaving the show, and you’ve got a book that had me grinning all the way through. And almost applauding at the end, at the artistry in tying together things that had been hidden in plain sight into an extremely satisfying solution, complete with a red herrings aplenty – there’s one aspect of the tale that I want to discuss so badly but it would be such a spoiler…
I’ve been waiting for a while to post this review – but the book is out on December 3rd so it’s time to a) get yourself a copy and b) order a copy for your mystery loving friends for Christmas. One of the finest mysteries that I’ve read for ages… possibly that I’ve ever read. Needless to say, it’s Highly Recommended.