Death in Paradise is a brand new BBC TV detective drama with some interesting ingredients, and I settled down to watch the first episode tonight with a good deal of optimism. Above all, I was intrigued by the fact that we were presented with – yes! – a 21st century locked room mystery. A sort of Guadeloupe-based homage to John Dickson Carr, if you can imagine such a thing.
A British cop who is working on a lovely little Caribbean island is found shot to death in a sealed panic room belonging to a millionaire. The only two people with access to the panic room are the millionaire and his wife, both of whom are conducting affairs. But which of them is guilty?
Another British cop, DI Poole (no relation to Henry Wade’s cop with the same name) is sent out to investigate. Poole is played by comedian Ben Miller, who is inexplicably grumpy about being posted to a truly beautiful place. The casting gives a clue to the fact that this is a light-hearted drama, a contrast to the bleak and gritty shows that have become over-familiar on our screens.
The solution to the mystery has a clever twist, and although this show is certainly not in the same league as early Jonathan Creek – which provided a masterclass in scriptwriting - I found it watchable. After all, given my enthusiasm for impossible crime stories, I’m naturally pleased to see that they are still finding favour with the TV programme makers. Admittedly, there were various flaws in the script, and some of the humour seemed forced. Nor was I really carried away by Miller’s performance, which struck me as less than subtle. I can imagine that some viewers will have been seriously unimpressed. But this was an establishing episode, with seven more to come. As for making a definitive judgment on the show’s quality, the jury is still out.