Death in Paradise: Ep. 4

“All my life, I’ve only been pretending.”

Les Miserables

Another visit to the beautiful (and, incidentally, fictional) island of Saint-Marie for the genteel, romanticised murder mystery series Death in Paradise. This week: Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, really. A treasure-hunter is shot in the night, and there’s talk of an ancient curse taking its revenge…

The thing with murder mysteries, I realised recently, is that nearly all of them rely on the assumption that the murderer is a really good actor. Because the obvious suspect is never the actual murderer; if he (or she) were, Agatha Christie’s novels would be about fifty pages long and Death in Paradise would only be half an hour. No, the actual murderer is never the one who looks suspicious or nervous; never the one you see photographing paperwork or cleaning a gun. The murderer is always the nice one, the socialite, the one who wants to be everyone’s friend. If you’ve murdered someone, would you really be able to act that convincingly? No murderer ever seems, during the investigation, to be affected by what they’ve done, even if it was a crime of passion.

I don’t know what the point of all that was, but I felt it needed saying. I think Death in Paradise is just so obviously a fantasy that it makes you think about all the various artifices of the Murder Mystery as a genre. For instance, in this episode, there’s an explosion that, from its violence, should have blown up its victim…who then appears with only a broken wrist. Then there’s Richard the goat, upon whose sickliness the whole plot revolves…except that he really doesn’t look that ill. And the Poirot-y, “Let Me Tell You A Story” denouement which Just. Makes. You. Want. To. Cry, it’s so annoyingly unrealistic. “Look how amazing I am, I worked all this out All By Myself!” Inspector Richard Poole is basically an egomaniac, I have decided.

Unless it’s all massively ironic? Hmm. I shall cogitate upon that possibility…


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