FTC Disclosure: My own book (birthday present)
For those of you who are familiar with the television show Midsomer Murders and have never read the series they are based on, I have to ask you one question: Why?
I admit though that I’ve been watching the series for years, but didn’t discover until recently it was based on novels by Caroline Graham. I put them on my wish list, so when I found a copy of the first book when I went shopping on my birthday I knew it was kismet.
There were very few things changed for television, nearly all minor. The only major one was the fate of Dennis Rainbird. I won’t say more in case you’re unfamiliar with the series.
Mrs. Barnaby’s cooking is as bad as in the show; perhaps worse.
Barnaby laid down his knife and fork. You could ask just so much from ordinary tempered cutlery.
Troy’s driving (and attitude toward just about everything) is as depicted.
There’s no need to drive as if you’re auditioning for the Sweeney*, Sergeant.
One difference, although not all that important in the greater scheme of things, is that Troy is married in the book. This fact is mentioned rarely as his other half isn’t needed to help define his character, whereas Joyce Barnaby’s relationship to her husband is critical.
Tom Barnaby loved his wife. Joyce was kind and patient. She was a good listener. He always talked when he came home, usually about work, knowing her discretion was absolute. And she would look as interested and concerned at the end of half an hour as she had at the beginning.
His wife is his sounding board and confidant and knows more than she ever lets on to her husband. When she does respond, it’s timed well and is gentle and understanding. It works perfectly in balancing Barnaby’s character.
Then there is Caroline Graham’s way with a descriptive phrase. It was breathtaking at times; a true mystery writer’s prose, never being too trite or too dark.
She took a Burberry cape from a hook behind the door and flapped her way into it.
Even when it was shorn of the eulogistic flavour deemed obligatory in all statements about the recently dead, Barnaby was still left with the picture of a singularly nice human being.
Barbaby sank into an armchair thickly barnacled with bumps of crochet.
And my favorite:
She could have been any age between thirty and sixty. The only certain thing was she hadn’t been a girl since he’d been a been a boy scout…She wore lipstick like vermilion Vaseline and thick makeup journeyed over the eruptions and into the craters of her complexion. You could join all those dots up till the cows come home, thought Barnaby, and never reach the hidden treasure.
The TV series is a favorite, but after reading this first novel in the series, I’m hooked even deeper. All the characters from the show are done well and pretty much in sync with the novel, but it’s the thoughts, the observations, all the things that can’t be translated completely into a script that makes reading the books so much better.
I still am not the fondest of Troy, and I think the book does Joyce more justice than the TV series – but this is why I like Caroline Grahams writing so much. The development of the plot and its characters is so much more robust than what I’ve seen represented visually.
I’m usually disappointed when I watch adaptations of a book, but not this time. Quite the opposite. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Caroline Graham’s books as well as watch more repeats of Midsomer Murders. I feel the books, much like the shows, are ones I’ll return to from time to time and never, ever, lend out.
Sorry my friends, if you want some of your own Midsomer goodness, you’re going to have to go buy it yourself or hope your library has copies. Mine are going onto the “if there was a fire and you could only grab one box of books” shelf.
* – The Sweeney referenced isn’t the film many many remember from 2012. This book was written in 1987. It’s more related to the series that starred John Thaw, yes that John Thaw, filmed in the 1970’s.
The Killings At Badger’s Drift available at or on Amazon.