(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Caroline Graham writes in the style of the classic English detective novel and has been compared to Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter. Her settings are typically English country manors, village churches, cozy cottages, and local theaters. However, the darkness of her murder plots, which are often shocking, keep her mysteries from being cozies. Graham deliberately contrasts the peacefulness of her settings, villages under the jurisdiction of the Corston CID, with the darkness of her plots.

Graham’s series characters, Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy, who are introduced in The Killings at Badger’s Drift, appear in all of her subsequent novels except for Murder at Madingley Grange (1990). In her Barnaby novels, she uses her knowledge of the human condition to play upon class struggles, often showing how people must sell their possessions or revert to criminal behavior to pay their debts. Her stories chronicle the human condition and how a person responds when love, money, and societal acceptance are missing. The primary characters—Barnaby, Troy, and Barnaby’s family—remain constant although the victims and witnesses prove to be downright strange if not evil. The architecture of the homes and their surrounding gardens are treated with descriptions that are as thorough as her depictions of characters.

The Killings at Badger’s Drift

In The Killings at Badger’s Drift, a well-liked, older never-married woman, Emily Simpson, turns up dead in her bungalow after witnessing a strange event in the woods, and a brother and sister connive their way into the lives of members of a higher class while pretending to be less than amicable with each other.

Graham creates the idyllic setting of the village of Badger’s Drift for her horrific plot, which begins with the elderly Emily Simpson searching for a rare orchid in the forest. It is during this expedition that she witnesses a mortifying event, one that she feels she cannot describe to anyone. Her watchfulness, however, does not go undetected, and she is murdered. Due to her age, however, no inquest is held. Her friend Lucy Bellringer doubts the coroner’s...

(The entire section is 895 words.)