Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Broadchurch and the lure of whodunit

Broadchurch had its seventh and penultimate episode, and the question of who killed Danny continues to spark a great deal of debate. I've really enjoyed this series, which has provided a terrific reminder of the appeal - I'm tempted to say, the eternal appeal - of a really good whodunit. I was impressed by the first episode, but I've been even more impressed by the way the momentum has been maintained.

Most of us like to try solving a puzzle. I'm struck by the fact that my murder mystery events, which are interactive, almost always attract much larger audiences than conventional talks, and I'm also struck by the fact that people who come along tell me that the fun of trying to solve the mystery is at least as enjoyable as actually getting it right. That's a view I share. When I was reading Agatha Christie for the first time, I enjoyed the books where she fooled me even more than those where she didn't. As long as the fooling was 'fair'.

But the best detective stories offer added value along with the puzzle, in my opinion, which is where I part company with strict traditionalists like the late great Jacques Barzun. And this explains why Broadchurch scores so highly. The acting and the production values are excellent, but there is also a convincing portrait of a community torn by grief but also contaminated by suspicion. Yes, there are some implausibilities, but show me the whodunit where that isn't the case. There aren't many that are 100% credible; it's almost unavoidable, to rely on coincidence and unlikely developments, given the nature of the form. (Though I think it would be possible to write a whodunit that was totally credible in all respects. I'd be interested in any opinions about books already published which fit that description.)

There seems to be quite a widespread and growing consensus on the internet about the surprise twist regarding the identity of the killer. I'm not sure I go along with it, but I'll be fascinated to find the answer, and like everyone else, I hope it lives up to the expectations generated by this excellent series. 

1 comment:

Frances Brody said...

Agree that this is a cracking drama. I want to know Whodunit, but I don't want the series to end!