Classic Crime

Caroline Graham

Caroline Graham was born in 1931 in Nuneaston, Warwickshire. She attended Open University and received a degree for writing for the theatre from the University of Birmingham. Graham has been credited with writing episodes for the 1970’s TV drama, ‘Crossroads’.

Her first published book was ‘Fire Dance’ but has become better known as the writer of the Chief Inspector Barnaby series, dramatised for television as Midsomer Murders. The first Inspector Barnaby novel, ‘The Killings at Badger's Drift’ was published in 1987. Since then she has written six more, with the last novel ‘A Ghost in the Machine’ published in 2004. The first five Inspector Barnaby novels formed the basis of the first five episodes of Midsomer Murders. Caroline Graham lives in Suffolk.

Review: The Killings at Badger's Drift

There are some books you always remember reading for the first time. Mine was whilst living in Spain. Books were a rare commodity during my time abroad and so I read anything I could lay my hands on. Most were quite dire, but I remember the ones that really blew me away – and ‘The Killings at Badger’s Drift’ was one of the most memorable. What Graham had done was give a big nod to the puzzle of the Golden Age of crime with great characterisation. If you have read Graham’s books, then you know what I mean. If you are only familiar with the TV series, then you have a treat in store for you. As John Nettles who played the role of DCI Barnaby until 2012 states in his intro to her books, Graham’s writing is insightful and her characterisation is spot on, much of which is lost in the journey to the small screen.

There is much more to Barnaby, a grumpy, late middle-aged man who lulls his suspects in to a false sense of security with his appearance and easy manner. However, he doesn’t miss anything and has the eye of an eagle when it comes to murder. Graham superbly mixes her crime puzzle with humour, much of which comes from Barnaby’s young Sergeant Troy. Both are at the fore when Lucy Bellringer demands an investigation in to the death of her best friend, Emily Simpson. Her death is first put down as natural causes, but by the time Barnaby enters the fray in Badger's Drift he opens a can of worms that have been festering beneath the village's surface for years.

Having read loads of crime fiction, one does see the solution at different stages of a book, but I was totally hoodwinked by Graham with her solution to ‘The Killings at Badger’s Drift’ and so has been one of the most memorable crime novels I have read. Graham was only to write six more Barnaby books, the last published in 2004. However, the TV series has gone from strength to strength and the last episode of series 21 will be aired in the UK on the 14th January 2020. It has been announced that production of series 21 is about to begin, so the Midsomer juggernaut continues, even if the books have stopped. Maybe Graham felt she couldn’t compete with the TV series? Who knows… but we can enjoy her seven Barnaby books, ‘The Killings of Badger’s Drift’ being my favourite. A great plot and wonderful characterisation with a dash of the Golden Age. Who could ask for anything more? Enjoy.

Reviewed by: C.S.

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