The Killings At Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham is the first instalment in the series of crime novels featuring DCI Tom Barnaby, set in the fictional village of Badger’s Drift. Emily Simpson while collecting corral root orchid, steps on to a couple making love out in the open. The sight she sees troubles her deeply. And in the next scene she dies, promptly ruled as heart attack by her doctor. Her friend, Miss Bellringer, refuses to accept. She forces the police to look into the matter. DCI Barnaby takes on the case to find himself standing face to face with a faulty ruling from the doctor, and a death that took place five years ago.
One of the blurbs had mentioned that this is a book which Agatha Christie would have been proud of. Though a bit speculative in its nature as to whether The Dame would really have been proud or not, the book did get nominated for an Agatha Award. And, it can be taken as a modern day tribute to the Dame’s style of writing. The plot is set in a village, which while appearing calm, and rather dull on the surface takes up a sinister atmosphere as lies and hatred gets revealed. Just like the villages of the Dame’s books. But, unlike Poirot, Tom Barnaby comes out as a normal human being, slightly disturbed by his wife’s cooking skills, and without any distinctive mannerisms. Another difference between the two writers would have been the motive for the crime or the act, the one to hide, which prompted the crime, would never had gotten into any of the Poirot or Marple novels. Maybe this book, published in 1987, tried to break away from rather “dull” crimes of the earlier period to provide the reader with something more risky, staying true to the format of a village crime, being solved by a local man.
This book has been hailed as one of the top 100 crime novels of all time, and it got nominated for a plethora of Awards too. For me all these accolades seem justified. This is a fast and entertaining work of crime fiction, which instead of going to the deep psychology of the human mind, stays true to the formula of twists and clever detection.