Book Review: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham (Chief Inspector Barnaby, 1)

The Killings at Badger’s Drift is a mystery novel written by Caroline Graham and published in 1987. It is the first book in the Chief Inspector Barnaby series and introduces readers to the character of DCI Tom Barnaby, a detective in the fictional Midsomer County.

The story begins with the death of Emily Simpson, an elderly woman who lived in the small village of Badger’s Drift. The initial assumption is that she died of natural causes, but her best friend, Miss Lucy Bellringer, is convinced that something more sinister is at play. She shares her suspicions with her nephew, the young and idealistic Reverend Leonard Clement, who promises to look into the matter.

As Reverend Clement starts investigating, he discovers evidence that suggests Emily’s death was not an accident. However, before he can share his findings with anyone else, he too is found dead under mysterious circumstances. DCI Barnaby is called in to investigate the deaths, and he quickly realizes that there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

The first thing that struck me about The Killings at Badger’s Drift was the skillful way in which Caroline Graham builds tension throughout the story. From the very beginning, there is a sense that something is not quite right in the peaceful village of Badger’s Drift. The deaths of Emily Simpson and Reverend Clement are shrouded in mystery, and as the story progresses, the tension only intensifies.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciated was the way in which Graham develops her characters. DCI Barnaby is a complex and fascinating character, with a dry sense of humor and a determination to get to the bottom of the case. The supporting cast of characters is also well-drawn, from Miss Lucy Bellringer, who is determined to get to the truth about Emily’s death, to the various villagers who all seem to have something to hide.

One of the things that makes The Killings at Badger’s Drift such an effective mystery novel is the way in which Graham presents a range of suspects, each with their own motives and secrets. As DCI Barnaby delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of lies and deceit that makes it difficult to determine who is responsible for the deaths of Emily and Reverend Clement. This complexity kept me engaged throughout the book, and I found myself constantly trying to piece together the clues alongside the detective.

In addition to the compelling mystery at the heart of the novel, The Killings at Badger’s Drift also offers a glimpse into life in a small English village. Graham’s descriptions of the village and its inhabitants are vivid and evocative, and she captures the tensions and rivalries that can exist in a close-knit community. This setting adds an additional layer of interest to the story and makes it all the more satisfying when the mystery is finally solved.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Killings at Badger’s Drift to anyone who enjoys a well-crafted mystery novel. The characters are compelling, the setting is richly drawn, and the mystery itself is both complex and satisfying. As the first book in the Chief Inspector Barnaby series, it sets a high bar for the rest of the books in the series to follow.

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