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Written in Blood
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2001
My first Caroline Graham, but not my last. A beautifully crafted murder mystery, blending peaceful village life with the unpleasantness of modern living. At its centre is the writing group of Midsomer Worthy, and when one of the group is brutally killed, the guest speaker is the main suspect. Gradually the police untie the knots, dig out the secrets, stir up everyone's lives, and unmask the murderer. Sounds like a thousand other crime stories, so why was I gripped from first page to last by this fascinating book ? Partly because it is so skilfully written, with witty, flowing dialogue and characters wonderfully brought to life. Partly because of the great pair of policemen, the good-hearted but grumpy Barnaby, and Troy, the insecure sergeant, and the crackly relationship between them. Partly because of what makes this good book into a great one - the colourful minor characters, all so interesting that one never minded leaving the main story for a while to enter their lives. Like patient,artistic Sue, who finally rebels against her appalling wimp of a husband. That's Brian, so awful that he is wonderful - the seduction scene where he gets his come-uppance is hilarious. And elderly Rex, who is devastated when he finds that he isn't as brave as he thought he was. Great fun to read, terrible to come to the end. I can and will meet Barnaby and Troy again, but what happens to all the others ? I can only hope that Caroline Graham works this magic in all her books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What's better than a mystery that unravels slowly and saves a major punch (as well as its resolution) for the last few pages? "Written in Blood" by Caroline Graham is certainly one of those books. The reader just doesn't see the ending coming as it does after being presented with a grand assortment of possibilities for some 350 pages. Along the way, author Graham gives us some of the best-drawn characters imaginable. This is a murder mystery to be sure, but there is also wonderful humor and irony crammed into its pages. It is full of good-hearted souls, tragic figures, crass bullies, eccentrics and classic English police inspectors. The author leans heavily toward retribution for the bad and rebirth for the good. The formula works very well in this well-constructed novel.

"Written in Blood" tells the story of the murder of one of the members of a village writing group. The victim is someone who has been intensely private since arriving in the neighborhood and has remained an intriguing enigma to his neighbors and group acquaintences. It is the unwinding of his personal history that more or less drives the novel forward. The author is in no hurry here and takes good time along the way to resolving the murder to spinout the stories the other members of the group and their families and neighbors. This sometimes takes an almost Dickensian tone. A description of one of the minor characters was a favorite of mine: "Mr. Jocelyne, a short man with a markedly pouty chest and tiny hands and feet, came towards them. (Inspector) Barnaby was reminded of a pigeon. Everything about the solicitor was grey--his pin-striped arms and legs, the soft, sparsely distributed curls of hair upon his head and the more wiry tufts spring from his ears. Even his nails had a blue-grey tinge. He looked bone dry, as if all his essential juices had recently been drained off, and rustled as he walked."

This is a fun read that will probably lead you to other Caroline Graham books. It has done that for me, at least.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The village of Midsomer Worthy has a writing circle. Like most such groups it occasionally invites authors to speak at a meeting and give its members advice on their writing. Secretary Gerald Hadleigh does not react well to the suggestion that he should write to bestselling author Max Jennings and invite him to attend one of their meetings.

But write he does and Max accepts the invitation. Gerald asks Rex, a fellow group member, to ensure that he does not leave Gerald on his own with Max but doesn't explain why. When Gerald is found battered to death following the meeting and Max has apparently disappeared it seems like an open and shut case for Barnaby and Troy.

Barnaby is reminded forcibly of his own advice to subordinates to always keep an open mind about a case and he ensures that all the group members are questioned and asked to account for their movements though motives seem to be lacking as Gerald is such a mild and inoffensive person. Many secrets and obsessions will be brought to light before the murderer is revealed.

I enjoyed this well written and very detailed crime novel. The characters are all too believable and clues and red herrings are scattered throughout the story. The reader is given insights into the lives of all the writing group members and I felt sympathy for all of them. I thought the relationships between the characters were well done too especially those between Honoria and her sister in law, Amy and Sue and her unpleasant husband Brian. Laura's unrequited love is treated sympathetically too. Village life and its claustrophobic aspects are really brought to life.

I like Barnaby and Troy as characters and I especially liked how they were seen through the eyes of the people they are investigating. Troy could be a thoroughly dislikeable character with his off colour jokes and his all too predictable prejudices but he has enough good qualities about him to make him interesting. Barnaby and Troy remind me very much of Catherine Aird's Sloan and Crosby at times.

If you like your crime novels in the classic mould then you will probably enjoy Caroline Graham's Barnaby and Troy series. They can be read in any order.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2013
The clues are clear enough for astute readers, but I missed them - as does Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby. In the final pages, recalling his record of interviews, he reveals a discrepancy. Still I didn't get it, until the final thrilling death. Caroline Graham is an extremely skilled author who obviously thinks long and hard about great ways to entertain her readers. Even without intriguing murder, this story would be chuckle-chuckle good. But, of course, we all love it when puzzling slaughter intrudes on a tranquil English village.
While the author well merits her five stars in this whodunit, the publisher, Headline Book Publishing, gets a raspberry for sloppy editing. The paperback I bought (1995 edition) had a terrible booboo at the end, just as the salient detail of the whole mystery was being revealed. A paragraph break where there should not have been one, plus a misplaced quotation mark, caused me to blink, ponder, read the thing three times and curse the timing of this simple but unforgivable error. Oh well, the baffling ways of big publishers defy all ken!
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I'm not a passionate everyday reader of whodunits but this appears to be a particularly good one of the kind.
I have to admit that I'm very fond of Midsomer Murders, the TV series that is, and in my mind I consider John Nettles to be the true and original Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby of Causton CID, though that's not the case as you'll find in this line of books on which the TV plots are based. Therefore I'm prone to think this book is wrong when discovering details that do not match what I've seen on the telly. Anyway there's somewhat more to this story than what made it to the screen.
I find Caroline Graham very good at describing characters - especially female - and scenery. You really get to know the people and as you go through the book you can almost anticipate what they're going to say or do or how they'll react, and still the murder plot will unfold with quite a few surprises. Only one person is murdered in this story though, as I remember, which is quite unusual for Midsomer.
I just love the countryside with the small sleepy - only on the surface though - villages amongst rolling hills covered in farmland and woods, cut by small rivers and narrow roads. I feel at home in Midsomer County as so expertly designed and conveyed by Graham.
I'm bound to read more of these excellent detective novels, and The Killings at Badger's Drift is already lying in wait on the shelf ...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2013
Even if you have watched Midsummer Murders, it is definitelly worthwhile to read Graham's books as well. They are simply brilliant!
The characters are alive, the reader knows their motifs and background, each book takes the reader to a different setting that is always very well researched, the plots are never dull, as Graham obeys the rules of detective fiction, it is a pleasure to guess the murderer - but be ready for surprises!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2013
Well rounded characters, lots of psychological detail, an uncanny eye to describe the balance between people in a relationship, I really enjoyed reading 'Written in blood'. The murder plot plays second fiddle to the characters' personal stories but this is no problem as far as I am concerned as all the personal lives detailed in the book had great relevance to the way the story evolved. I will certainly be reading others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
I have always loved Midsomer Murders, i was a bit apprehensive to then try the original story, this book did not dis appoint, although the main characters are not described as we see on screen, the books still gave the same enjoyment.
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on 5 June 2010
This is one of a couple of Murder Mysteries that I've read recently. Having never read anything by Caroline Graham before, but having seen many episodes of Midsomer Murders it was quite strange to read the book after knowing the characters so well from TV. On one level I was a little disappointed as I did have very high expectations and if I'm honest the book did not quite live up to them. However Graham writes well and the book is a very pleasurable read.....so a 4 star rating seems fair!!!
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on 29 January 2013
I was very disappointed with the first half of the book, it dealt more with the names of confectionery than it did with the crime.That is why I say surprised, after all some of these stories are televised. However the further the story went the more I enjoyed it. I shall give Caroline another read hoping for more detail of the main subject
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