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The Killings at Badger's Drift: 03/04/20

The Killings at Badger's Drift

The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham is the first of seven mysteries in the Chief Inspector Barnaby mystery series. It's also the title of the first episode of the long running show, Midsomer Murders. I mention the show because it was my introduction to the books.

In Badger's Drift, there's a rare orchid and two elderly ladies have been going head to head to spot occurrences of it. Miss Emily Simpson has the honor of finding it this year (1987 in the book, 1997 in the television show). She has the misfortune of spotting "something nasty" (to borrow the phrase from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932) in a nearby copse. What she sees leads to her being followed and murdered in her home later the same day.

Miss Lucy Bellringer, her rival and long time friend, believes in her heart of hearts that Miss Simpson was murdered. Sure, she spends much of her free time reading mysteries, but she also knows her friend. It's up to her to convince C.I. Barnaby to open up an investigation before her death is ruled natural causes.

Both versions of this mystery are complex with lengthy side plots and backstories that drive the original and subsequent murders. Although, the television version has one more murder than Graham's version. The book, though, spends an uncomfortably long time setting everything up, rather than mixing the past into the present investigation.

I decided to read the source material to see if the sex obsession was canonical or added for the benefit of the teleplay. I can now say that it's canonical, although somewhat different. The biggest difference is with the undertaker, Dennis Rainbird and his mother, Iris. His sexual activities are squickier in the book in that besides being gay, is quite possibly in an incestuous relationship with his mother. On the other hand, he's the extra victim in the television adaptation. Of course, given the main plot, what's one more incestuous relationship? That's the sexual deviation topic for this volume.

The second book is Death of a Hollow Man (1989) which was adapted into the third episode of the first series in 1998.

Four stars

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