THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT by Caroline Graham

THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Add first-novelist Graham to the herbaceous border school of detecting. When Miss Emily Simpson, a spinster of course, is stalking the meadow for signs of the spurred coral root orchid, she sees them making love. Bent on secrecy, one or both murder Miss Emily with hemlock (!), which as every keen gardener knows can easily be mistaken for parsley, a fact they hope will persuade Chief Inspector Barnaby that the death was nothing more than an infortuitous picking of the wrong clump for tea. Miss Emily's pal, octogenarian Lucy Bellringer, will have none of it and presents herself as Hastings to Barnaby's Poirot. Barnaby, now saddled with two helpers he doesn't want (Lucy and Sargeant Troy, the brashly snobbish youth he relegates to chauffeur), ultimately solves this case, which intertwines with a supposedly accidental death of some years back, while meandering from pub to doctor's surgery to manor house to artist's locked studio with botanical references en route. Village life, it would seem, is nothing if not incestuous, and among the more memorable dalliances is the frolicking mum and sonny team of Iris and Dennis Rainbird (he's the local pouff, also the undertaker; she's the obese and conniving hamlet blackmailer, keeping a meticulous journal of the comings and goings of the villagers). Many genteel inquisitions, lucky breaks and cliches later (among them: a dog that doesn't bark, a dying message, a mysterious phone call), the village is cozy again, albeit minus four of its citizens. An OK debut, but it might have been spectacular if Graham had focused more on the horticulture or more on the rococo sexual whimsies. Another Barnaby investigation is promised; let's hope it naughtier.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1987
Publisher: Adler & Adler--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux