I was round at a friend’s house the other day when her Tesco delivery arrived. Tucked in the bags was a box of Del Monte fruit smoothie lollies. My friend revealed that she and her husband had one each week in front of Death In Paradise to get them in the Caribbean mood. “Aha!” I thought. “So it isn’t just me who indulges in this guilty pleasure.” Not Del Monte fruit smoothie lollies, but Death In Paradise, a murder mystery series so bad it’s actually, well, quite good. Catchy tunes, nice scenery, good food, beach bars, a few running gags, a touch of sexual tension, The Cat from Red Dwarf – what’s not to like? Add in a supposedly brilliant but eccentric British detective, completely implausible plots, a murderer who is usually obvious from the opening credits (the clue being it’s the one actor you’ve heard of, someone who clearly fancied a nice all-expenses paid holiday to Guadeloupe), and a homage to Agatha Christie as the murderer is unmasked each week in front of a gathering of everyone sipping tea or cocktails in the lounge, and it’s apparently a sure-fire winner. Even if, as other reviewers have commented, it makes it seem as though fifty years of crime writing and television mystery making have never happened.
A bit of a shock horror moment came at the start of this series when Ben Miller, the original eccentric British detective, was killed off in one of the opening scenes. But not to worry, they had found a clone, in the form of Kris Marshall, star of My Family and the BT adverts, to carry on where he had left off. Except that Kris (I can’t even remember his character’s name, he’s that memorable – no, wait, it’s Humphrey! Of course. What other name could there be for a posh Brit? Even if every other surviving Humphrey in the world is at least twice this Humphrey’s age. Or a cat.) drinks something a little stiffer than tea on occasion. And he sometimes wears a tropical shirt rather than a starched and sweaty Savile Row suit. And he does pratfalls. And he did comment in his first episode that it was a little strange that everyone had to be gathered together in a lounge in order for him to arrest the murderer.
The only problem about writing about Death In Paradise is that I've never been to the Caribbean. Or anywhere close to it, for that matter. I’ve been to Notting Hill Carnival and eaten goat curry on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. I’ve read a couple of Andrea Levy books. My grandparents used to own a timeshare in the Bahamas, and my grandmother’s cousin served a ministry over there. I wouldn’t say no to an invitation or an opportunity though... Though they may want to lower the murder rate a little before I go. A bit like Morse and Lewis never quite managed to do in Oxford. In the meantime, a Del Monte fruit smoothie is definitely the way to go.