Review: A MEDITATION ON MURDER by Robert Thorogood

A MEDITATION ON MURDER is the first of what is so far a three instalment series that based on the TV show Death in Paradise, more specifically the first two seasons of the show. Having come to the (fictional) Caribbean island of Saint Marie to investigate the murder of the small police force’s Detective Inspector, English policeman Richard Poole has stayed on and taken over that role, despite his loathing for island life. As he says here, no one should have to beg to return to Croydon. In the TV series Richard became the subject of his own murder investigation at the end of season two but in the book he lives grumpily on in a parallel universe kind of way.

Like each episode of the TV show A MEDITATION ON MURDER presents a classic locked room whodunit. Here a man called Aslan Kennedy is murdered inside one of the meditation rooms in the spiritual retreat he runs with his wife. As is the way of this type of story there were 5 people locked inside the room with him at the time of the murder though in a variation to the norm one of them confesses immediately. Richard’s team think the case will be wrapped up almost before it starts but, based primarily on the presence of a drawing pin where he thinks drawing pins do not belong, Richard is skeptical. As the team delves into Aslan Kennedy’s past and his connection to some of the guests things do prove more complicated than they first appeared. Of course.

I have watched the show so can’t be sure, but I think Thorogood, who is the creator of the TV series, has done a decent job of providing enough details about Richard, his team and their island setting that even readers who are not fans of the show would have no trouble keeping up. Though it can’t have been that hard to do as this is ‘cosy’ territory where deep emotions and long-running, complex story arcs are not really on the menu. Richard is depicted in all his curmudgeonly Richardness: awkward at just about everything involving other humans but a crack investigator and unable or unwilling to adapt to island life in any meaningful way. As someone who hates beaches almost as much as Richard I have something of a soft spot for this particular fish out of water (pardon the pun). Alas for me the rest of the 4-member team actually seemed less fleshed out than their televisual counterparts which was surprising given a novel has more space for that kind of thing.

I found the bones of the story decent enough but can’t honestly say I thought there was enough of it to fill a book. There really wasn’t much more substance to the requisite misdirection and red herrings than you’d find in the 45 (or so) minute running time of a TV episode which meant there was a lot of repetition of salient points. So much so that I worked out just about every facet of the resolution long before the traditional denouement. It wasn’t badly constructed, in fact it was quite clever and followed all the proper rules of the sub genre, but there just wasn’t quite enough of it to really grab my attention.

Although I did really like the sequences in which Richard attempted to get Harry the lizard out of his house I don’t think the book had the level of humour I was expecting, primarily due to the reduced role of the other characters, and the pacing was a bit slow. And therein lies the problem with this kind of tie-in: the target market brings a whole set of expectations which are, I imagine, even more difficult than the usual kind to manage and meet. I listened to the audio version, narrated terrifically by Phil Fox, and it was a pleasant enough way to pass some time but I don’t foresee I’ll keep on with the series. There is, for me, some kind of x-factor missing.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Phil Fox
Publisher Harper Collins Audio, 2016
ASIN B01HOXUGKO
Length 9 hours 59 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #1 in the Death in Paradise series
Source of review copy I bought it

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3 Responses to Review: A MEDITATION ON MURDER by Robert Thorogood

  1. Sorry to hear the book didn’t quite live up to the show, Bernadette. I’ve watched the show and enjoyed it, and I was wondering what the book series might be like. Too bad about the way we don’t learn as much about the team in the book; in the show, their stories really add to the plots, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rkottery says:

    I haven’t seen the show, but I agree with you about the general expectations of tie-in novels causing problems with the writing. It limits the scope for creativity. There’s often a laziness to them because they have a built in market and also, there’s the difficulty of risking adding something to the characters which is later contradicted by the series (although if, as you say, this is already an alternate, that should be less of a problem).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know that other crime series manage OK to be independent of each other when it’s the books that came first – e.g. Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan/Tony Hill series is quite different from the TV show Wire in the Blood – and only the first few seasons of Dalziel and Pascoe were based on Reginald Hill’s books – but somehow it feels more acceptable when it’s that way around than when the TV show inspires the books. Probably to do with my own personal bias 🙂

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