Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)



PERSONALLY, I blame Agatha Christie. To the pasty, the cream tea, the bucket and spade holiday and the finest cider in the world, we can add another accolade for our beloved Devon and Cornwall. We have become the crime capital of the country – at least as far as the genre of ‘cosy crime’ is concerned.

We export more cosy crime right now than anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of the lush, palm-fringed Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Did I mention I was there a couple of weeks ago? I did, you’re right.

Cosy crime is the big thing in the world of books and television these days. You can’t browse a bookshelf or surf the TV channels without coming across a murder mystery which is absorbing and intriguing without being too grisly.

And many of them seem to be set here in the wild west. Maybe Dame Agatha’s attachment to Burgh Island and her roots in Torbay are the reason.

The criteria for a short story competitio­n which I was going to enter before I realised I had missed the submission deadline by more than a month urged me not to make my crime too graphic, and not to include any ‘lurid’ descriptio­ns of murder.

“Don’t be too dark,” it said.

Hence a genre which is taking the world by storm. The ubiquitous Richard Osman is the king of cosy crime. His Thursday Murder Club stories are set in the South East rather than the South West, but he is head and shoulders above the competitio­n. His crisp and easy writing style creates vivid and entertaini­ng stories, and there’s a reason why he’s at the top of the game at the moment.

But alongside him on the shelves are endless Cornwall-based murder stories and a plethora of imitations boasting not-too-graphic murders taking place in rural settings. Dame Agatha started it all 100 years ago with poisonings in drawing rooms and discreet stabbings in seaside hotels.

Her stories continue to dominate library borrowing charts and every year one gets made into a Christmas TV special.

Cosy crime has been going on for years, from Columbo to Miss Marple to Murder She Wrote.

The latest addition to the genre on TV is Beyond Paradise, a series confusingl­y set in Devon but filmed largely in Cornwall. Looe is the star of the show, but the South Devon Railway between Buckfastle­igh and Totnes looked a million dollars in the opening episode of the latest series when the beastly deed was done on board a moving train.

This is a spin-off from the wildly successful Death In Paradise series, which is one of those things that is always on some TV channel somewhere if you only look hard enough across the multitude of channels.

In it, a slightly awkward British police inspector is seconded to the island paradise of Guadeloupe (did I mention…?) to solve a murder every week, usually a not-too-graphic one involving a neat puncture wound, a poisoning or a barely noticeable blow to the head. Nothing splatters or oozes unpleasant­ly here. The victim is almost always a British ex-pat and so, inevitably, is the murderer.

In Beyond Paradise, one of the slightly awkward inspectors has come home and is solving neat and tidy murders in Devon, which looks like Cornwall. Familiar TV faces enjoy cameo roles and locals are played by actors putting on the best clotted cream accents they learned at drama school. Are there really no local actors who could do this?

But cosy crime has got us hooked now. TV companies have seen how successful the formula is, and spin-offs are spinning off in all directions.

Guy Henderson is a Local Democracy Reporter for Radio Exe

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