Friday, November 20, 2009

The Killings at Badger's Drfit

Miss Lemon was pleasantly surprised at how much she recently enjoyed reading two entries in Caroline Graham's Midsomer Murders series, which feature the worldly Chief Inspector Barnaby and his sometimes surly partner, Sergeant Troy.

The duo from Causton CID make their debut in The Killings at Badger's Drift, with Badger's Drift being a quaint little English village not so unlike another fictional scene of murder among the tea-sipping set: Flaxborough.

In Badger's Drift, a spinster English teacher on the trail of a ghost orchid spots something among the flora that's far more sensual -- and scandalous.

And more than one resident of Badger's Drift proves willing to go to any length to keep Miss Simpson's find a secret.

In Written in Blood, the fourth entry in the Midsomer series, the Midsomer Worthy writer's group gets more material than it ever could have hoped for after one of its founding members is found bludgeoned to death after a key meeting.

What binds both of these novels together, beyond the recurring characters, is Ms. Graham's clever way of revealing the dank and twisted recesses that accompany the human condition. Everyone in these stories, it seems, has something to hide -- if not something of which to be outright ashamed.

Ms. Graham also has an exceptional sense of humor, and quite frankly, a gift for delicious satire. Whether she's skewering the absurdities of post-modern theatre (viz, Brian Clapton's "Slanghwang for Five Mute Voices" in Written in Blood) or Mrs. Barnaby's complete and total lack of culinary skill, Miss Lemon promises you that you will laugh, aloud and often, while reading her work.

Cats and dogs also make excellent characters in the Midsomer series. The author makes an Irish wolfhound and a stray cat called Kilmowsky come more vividly to life than entire casts of characters featured in weaker novels that Miss Lemon has read.

In sum, she thinks that if her readers enjoy a cracking good murder with their afternoon tea, then they will enjoy just about anything by Caroline Graham.

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