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4.6 out of 5 stars41
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 3 June 2004
This is my favourite Caroline Graham novel, quite simply because it's flawless. I was glued from beginning to end by the characters, the setting, the insights, the intrigue..... what I love about her craft is that she weaves so many seemingly different stories into one with such depth of detail. Her murders are never simple!

I think this may be the 'darkest' of her works, and that's why I love it so much. She never shys away from taboo subjects and her creepy characters are never ridiculous but very chilling.

If you like to guess a different conclusion at every chapter and sweat right along with Barnaby then you'll love this perfect country murder. I also highly recommend the screen adaptation with an excellent cast who truly bring the book to life.
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on 7 November 2009
I had long wanted to read a Caroline Graham crime novel to compare with the popular TV series, the early ephisodes being largely based on her novels- but not the later ones.

The novel is pacy, but not over-so, well-written and as one might expect there is considerably more characterisation and local detail than on TV. Graham's strong suit is giving the main characters a credible background history, which makes their behaviour much more explicable and interesting. That said, the TV was a generally faithful adaptation. Basically Graham writes a 20th/21st C version of Agatha Christie but with stronger characterisation, a bit more nastiness and of course more sex (or perhaps we should just say sex), although its not over-emphasised.

The details of the style of dress of the female characters in particular is notable; most of them are fairly eccentric, or extremely selfish and/or nasty personalities! I won't give away anything of the plot but would highly recommend this to anyone who is familiar with Inspector Barnaby as portrayed by John Nettles. The twist is suitably gripping if not entirely unexpected. Highly recommended. Also this first book provides the amusing details of Barnaby's wife's complete inability to cook!
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2009
Graham's crime fiction is often of the gentle Miss Marple type and Barnaby is a loveable character, easy on the eye and brain. However this novel has some clout in it. This is not a tale of gentle village life but of the running sores which poison the undergrowth. Amongst the pretty flowers and plants there is greed and there are feuds. Complicated relationships have Barnaby on his toes grappling with age-old ills and gripes which have festered. This is rich in plot and characters. A very good read indeed.
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on 21 February 2010
No more "fun" for the Rainbirds, though one of them survives, which is one of the details that differs from the TV plot as I remember. Another is that Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy appears to be an expert though somewhat aggressive driver and not as hopeless as visualized in Midsomer Murders.
Anyway it's an excellent murder mystery, and it doesn't really matter whether you've seen on the telly or not. I even read it after Written in Blood, which is the wrong way around, but I don't think it matters much either. Of course there are introductions to the main characters in this one but I would imagine most feel they know them pretty well already. I believe that the TV producers are generally very fair and true to Caroline Graham's characters, e.g. Troy's homophobia is portrayed expertly.
Graham commands a challenging use of the English language - there's a lot to learn for someone like me. She definitely exhausted my otherwise impressive and ever helpful Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (sixth edition, 2000), though it may well be too much to expect the dictionary to list all flowers by Latin, English and nick name and every sort and shade of bathroom tiles etc.
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It is hard to find any fault with an author who dedicates her novel to Christianna Brand, one of my favourite mystery authors of all time. This is the first in the Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby novels - I have never watched Midsomer Murders - so I came to the book without preconceptions and I absolutely loved it. Barnaby is a great character, likeable and mildly stern, with a deep love for his wife Joyce and a liking for his job that he is slightly uncomfortable with.

When elderly Miss Simpson is murdered in her own home, the death is first considered a natural one. Yet questions are raised by her friend Lucy Bellringer, who points out that Emily Simpson had behaved out of character in ways which suggested all was not as simple as it looked. Agreeing to look into the matter, Barnaby uncovers a wealth of secrets in the picture perfect English village of Badger's Drift, and more than one murder...

There is a great cast of characters, including the creepy Dennis Rainbird and his mother, the luckless Sergeant Troy and Dr Lessiter, his lovelorn daughter and unfaithful wife. The book is well plotted, interesting and I am sure that I will be reading the rest of the series.
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on 12 March 2011
As an avid watcher of Midsomer Murders I was unsure if I would like the original novel. However, I found Caroline Graham an intelligent writer with an unusual turn of phrase at times. The character of Barnaby was slightly different to (and perhaps more complex than) the depiction by John Nettles, but not too much to be confusing.
This was a most enjoyable read, and I will be reading the rest of her Barnaby stories as a consequence.
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on 13 July 2013
I have just finished reading my third inspector Barnaby which happens to be the first in the series. Tightly plotted and immensely readable, it is difficult to wrench oneself from the page once the delightful Miss Simpson, orchid hunter extraordinaire, has stumbled upon a scene in the wood which she shouldn't have witnessed and for which she is going to pay the highest price. Cleverly constructed story, witty dialogue and masterful suspense! A highly entertaining read!
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on 29 April 2015
The Killings At Badger's Drift is the first book where we meet DCI Tom Barnaby and his sidekick DS Gavin Troy who are investigating murders in the tranquil country village of Badger's Drift. Out of all the seven Barnaby books this one is my absolute favourite. It's so well written and the storyline is so good you, like me, could read this book again and again. I'm certainly glad to have purchased this fantastic book.
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on 17 November 2013
CAN so many nasty people exist in one small English village? You betta believe it or you'll forego the delight in all this mayhem. Characters and plot are the ingredients in one of the best of all whodunits, and the main puzzle is guaranteed to baffle.
This was the first detective Tom Barnaby book and made the author's name. Caroline Graham mysteries maintain the highest level of readability.
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Miss Simpson is found dead in her cottage. Her friend Lucy Bellringer does not believe it is natural causes and Chief Inspector Barnaby starts to think she might be right though his first impressions were that she just did not want to accept her friend was dead. He uncovers a web of secrets in the village of Badger's Drift including a particularly creepy undertaker and his even creepier mother.

This is the first book by Caroline Graham I've read and I am impressed by her writing. I thought her characters were convincing and well drawn and the plot is excellent. I didn't work out who the murderer was until very close to the end of the book. While there is an extremely unpleasant murder part way through the book it isn't described in graphic detail and is probably all the more shocking because it isn't described.

I like DI Barnaby and his sidekick Sgt Troy with his lady killing tendencies and his radical left wing views. I have never watched the TV series of Midsummer Murders but I definitely like this book and I shall be going on to read the rest of the series. If you like traditional murder mysteries with a village setting then try Caroline Graham's novels.
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