I was not sure if I would be able to finish the remaining Death in Paradise novel this month, as my copy was due to arrive sometime next week. But my parcel obviously had a can-do attitude and landed on my door mat last week, so naturally I read it post-haste! This is the third book in the series and the last one I needed to read. You can find my reviews for the other books here:
A Meditation on Murder (2015)
The Killing of Polly Carter (2015)
Murder in the Caribbean (2018)
‘Reluctantly stationed on the sweltering Caribbean island of Saint-Marie, Detective Inspector Richard Poole dreams of cold winds, drizzly rain and a pint in his local pub. Just as he is feeling as fed up as can be, a mysterious vagrant is found dead in the grounds of the historic Beaumont plantation. Immediately assumed to be suicide, DI Poole is not so convinced and determined to prove otherwise. Never mind that the only fingerprints on the murder weapon belong to the victim. Or that the room was locked from the inside. Before long, death knocks twice and a second body turns up. The hunt is on to solve the case – despite the best efforts of the enigmatic Beaumont family…’
Like the final book in the series, book 3 shows some deviation from the narrative structure developed in books 1 and 2. Although I would not say this has a detrimental effect on the reader’s enjoyment. One such difference is that the third novel contains no prologue and instead the story jumps straight into witnessing the latest suffering of Richard Poole, which is never a hardship, given how enjoyable a character he is to read about:
‘Detective Inspector Richard Poole was in a bad mood. This wasn’t in fact all that unusual. not to say that he was always in a bad mood, far from it. Sometimes, he simmered without quite boiling over. And at other times he felt too worn down by the whole shooting match of life to get a proper grump on. But today wasn’t one of those days. Today he was in a fury so complete that he was in grave danger of going ‘the full Rumpelstiltskin’.’
What is the reason for his ire? We soon learn that he is annoyed at his colleagues wanting him to wear ‘more casual clothes’. This part of the book exemplifies how Richard Poole’s thoughts successfully bleed into the narrative at times, with sections such as this:
‘Didn’t they appreciate just how very elegantly he was already dressed? And hadn’t they any idea just how hard it was keeping his black brogues polished to a parade ground sheen when most of the island was covered in fine grade aggregate – or, as the tourist brochures were so intent on calling it, ‘sand’?’
I think this intrusion into the narrative voice is one of the series’ main strengths, as it really helps to add in humour in a way which is not forced. Another favourite example is when Dwayne suggests a particular blue shirt for Poole to wear:
‘Dwayne,’ Richard said with the rattle of death in his voice. ‘That shirt doesn’t even have sleeves.’
It was true. It wasn’t so much a shirt as a vest with ideas above its station.
Another difference at the start of book 3, compared with the other mysteries in the series, is that the opening crimes are not murder. The commissioner wants a seller of bootleg rum investigated and a woman calls in at the station to ask for help as she claims she is being stalked. When they are investigating at the coffee plantation owned by her family, two gunshots are heard, so murder follows hard on the heels of the earlier events. As the story progresses, these initial issues are woven into the central plot effectively.
Similar to the second book in the series, Death Knocks Twice presents the reader with a murder made to look like a suicide. Yet once again, Poole notices several discrepancies which reveal that this is no suicide. This aspect of the plot is utilised in a different way, to how it is deployed in book 2, so there is no need to worry about things feeling repetitive. An interesting early part of the investigation is the team trying to discover who the victim is, a task made more amusingly difficult by the fact that an iguana chomped through a network cable at the local airport, meaning the electronic passenger lists cannot be accessed.
Out of the four investigations Poole conducts in this series, I would say this one is the most family focused, as understanding the past and the suspects’ family history is a key part of solving the case. Furthermore, this is a case in which Poole and his team have to expose their suspects’ numerous lies, as there are many layers to their deception and many reasons for their lying. But which lies are concealing a murderer? The “how” of the first murder, is perhaps consequently, less of an investigative priority, in comparison to the need to dig into family’s life, past and present. In that respect I think this mystery is more of a whydunit.
I think the other three books in the series have a more consistent comic subplot, but attempts to get Richard Poole dressed in more climate appropriate clothing come back to haunt him with the bootlegging case.
Reflecting on the solution, I think it was too complicated, and therefore needed a lot of theorising on Poole’s part. It felt like a solution you couldn’t fully solve yourself. So, it was less satisfying for that reason. Nevertheless, I would say this is the darkest solution of the series, darker even than book 4’s, which surprised me.
See also: The Puzzle has also reviewed this title here.
My Ranking of the Series:
1st Place: The Killing of Polly Carter
2nd Place: Murder in the Caribbean
3rd Place: A Meditation on Murder (It was hard to decide between 2nd and 3rd place as they were so close together in quality. The solution to this one was a drier, so I used that as a way of separating the two.)
4th Place: Death Knocks Twice (But it got a 4/5 so in this case last place is not such a bad place to be!)
Yes, I had the same feeling about this book. “The plot is so jumbled that he needed some 60 pages to let DI Richard Poole explain the murder.”My review is here: https://fred-de-vries.blogspot.com/2018/06/review-death-knocks-twice-by-robert.html
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Thank you for the link to your blog review. It looks like I probably enjoyed this one a little more than you. Have you read any others in the series?
Yes, I’ve read ‘A Meditation on Murder’ and ‘The Killing of Polly Carter’ too. Compared to those, I had a distinct feeling that ‘Death Knocks Twice’ was written by an entirely different author.
Reminded me a bit of the books ‘written’ by Richard Castle. Those were in fact written by several ghostwriters as tie-ins to the television series ‘Castle’.
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I wouldn’t go as far as you, but I would say book 3 shows a change in direction with the novels, and the story shows deviations from the earlier books.