DEATH IN PARADISE
Robert Thorogood on his BBC series Death In Paradise and spinoff novels starring the original detectives, DI Poole and DS Bordey
As well as the TV show, there’s a series of novels. Creator Robert Thorogood reveals all.
The show is very much a homage to the Agatha Christie books I read when I was
growing up. But it’s also infused with my love of Midsomer Murders, Jonathan Creek, Murder, She Wrote, Monk – basically any kind of murder mystery story. It’s always challenging coming up with the plots, but this is where the TV show really comes into its own: a whole bunch of us sit in a room trying to come up with ideas, and it’s a hugely enjoyable process, while also being very demanding. You have to deliver a satisfying murder mystery, but you also have to have plenty of scenes of comedy, warmth and sunshine.
I got the idea after reading that the Pakistan cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, had just died under suspicious circumstances in the Caribbean during the Cricket World Cup of 2007. Because Mr Woolmer held a British passport, the Metropolitan Police sent
out British detectives to assist in the investigation. I found myself thinking: “Oh, the Met Police send coppers abroad to solve crimes – is there a show in that?”
I really wanted to see if I could write
a murder mystery book myself. I set the books somewhere between Series 2 and 3 of the TV series (for reasons that viewers of the show will understand). I love writing the Death In Paradise novels, but I’m not sure I’d move on to write Humph and Florence in book form. Up to now, I’ve had the best of both worlds: writing the bumbling Humphrey Goodman for the TV series, and also writing the uptight Richard Poole in book form.
I wanted to get stuck into my characters a bit more in the third
book, Death Knocks Twice. So I’ve decided to tell the story of a family who’ve been running a coffee plantation on Saint Marie for the last 200 years. They appear to be very powerful and rich, but their lives are thrown into a turmoil when a man is shot dead in one of their outhouses – the main problem being, not one of them can identify who the dead man is… Or can they?
The books have so far been based on ideas that I originally thought could work in the TV show, but then
realised they wouldn’t work. For example, as far as I know, there are no cliffs with steps cut into them on Guadeloupe, where we film Death In Paradise. So when I came up with an idea that involved throwing a supermodel off a cliff and realised we couldn’t possibly film it, that became the second book, The Killing Of Polly Carter. I write the novels after I’ve finished working on the TV show each year. The Caribbean is obviously one of the most beautiful places in the world, but the weather can be quite mercurial. I’ve seen it raining heavily on the actors while the camera team stand in bright sunshine, and vice versa. As for visiting the Caribbean, don’t tell anyone, but I’d never visited it before the show was greenlit. I just had to keep bluffing in meetings that I knew all about Caribbean life. In reality, I was relying on Wikipedia for most of my research.
Death Knocks Twice (HQ), the third book in the series, is out on 18 May.
“THE BOOKS USE IDEAS THAT WON’T WORK IN THE SHOW”
A fish out of water? Brit Dirichard Poole (Ben Miller) with DS Camille Bordey (Saramartins).