Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham


What does it say about me that a TV show about quaint little English villagers murdering each other is my ultimate comfort watch? Regardless of what it does-- or doesn't-- say about me, I absolutely adore Midsomer Murders. I've watched it through two Barnabys and God only knows how many sergeants, and it's never gotten old. It was so much fun to see the show evolve from wide-shot low-budget BBC drama to a rather sophisticated police procedural. And while I normally don't like police procedurals, for both personal and political reasons, the one exception I'll always make is for Daddy Barnaby. I mean, he loves to paint watercolors, enjoys gardening, and worships his hilariously bad cook of a wife, Joyce. I LOVE HIM.

When I found out that my favorite TV show of all time was based off of a book series, I bought, like, I don't know. The first four or five, all sight unseen. I figured anything that good had to come from good source material, and after reading THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT, I'm thinking I was totally right. Oh my gosh, what a RIDE. It starts out with two little old ladies engaged in a friendly competition to see who can find a sprouting orchid first. But then one of them Cold Comfort Farms it and spots something nasty. She doesn't know how to deal with what she saw, so she calls a trauma hotline, but before she can make like a Brit and pour the tea, someone offs her.

Daddy Barnaby enters the scene with his uptight and intolerant sergeant, Troy. The more they talk to the people of Badger's Drift, the more it starts to look like she didn't just mysteriously "fall over and die." There's a creepy mother and son duo, a suspicious trophy wife and her incompetent doctor husband, a moody artist, a May December wedding, and, of course, murder most foul. By the time you get to the end of the book, you'll be sweating secrets out of every pore, because it turns out that literally everyone in this not-so-adorable English village has something to hide. But you can't hide anything from Barnaby.

So obviously, I loved this book. I loved the episode that Anthony Horowitz adapted from this book and I loved John Nettles in it, but I loved the source material too. They did SUCH a job finding the perfect cast for these colorful descriptions, and I really loved the tongue-in-cheek wit and the picturesque descriptions of rural country life and tasty English teas. You could literally spend pages describing puddings and sandwiches to me and I would sit there and be delighted (and lest you call me a liar, I've read two of Nigel Slater's books, and both of them were exactly this). I also loved how wicked and brutal this book could be. Except for the absence of computers and cell phones, it feels very modern. Caroline Graham was clearly very forward thinking in her time. This book doesn't feel dated at all.

I don't want to say too much else because with this book, less is more going in. But it is pretty dark for a so called "cozy" mystery and I would say that if you are put off by descriptive passages about gore or abusive family/relationship dynamics, you may want to avoid this book. 

4.5 out of 5 stars

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