The murders on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie are never easy to solve for the local police force, led by Detective Inspector Humphrey Goodman (played by Kris Marshall). The formula to the show’s success, however, is less of a mystery. Millions of viewers draw the curtains on the bleak British January weather to escape to a place where the sun always shines and a murder is part of life. So what makes this island idyll murder mystery the most popular crime drama on TV?
The beautiful location
“It’s like wrapping a sunny blanket around you in January,” summarises Marshall. The series is filmed on the French island of Guadeloupe, which transforms itself into Saint-Marie, a British overseas territory. And while it’s a joy to watch on screen, it’s even nicer for the cast and crew, who decamp there for five-and-a-half months a year to film the eight-part series.
“This is the most brilliant job in terms of where we film. That swim after work…” says Marshall, with a broad smile on his bronzed face. “There are worse places to be!”
The perfect murder
Nearly every episode begins with the arrival of a group of Brits to the island, one of whom is doomed the moment they step off the plane. The murders often involve locked rooms, watertight alibis, lost murder weapons and unreliable witnesses. The cases seem impossible to solve until DI Humphrey Goodman calls the suspects to the crime scene and the murderer is revealed.
“There is a Death in Paradise classic this series,” says Marshall. “A guy flies in to the island, goes through customs, gets into a taxi, goes to his hotel, locks his room. He doesn’t speak to anyone or leave his room and is found murdered. Get yourself out of that, Poirot!”
The very British detective
Goodman is stereotypically British in a linen suit-wearing, bumbling, eager-to-please way. In his first episode (in series three, the last series featuring DI Richard Poole, played by Ben Miller) he fell out of a window.
“Humphrey is a bit dyspraxic but that doesn’t make him any less of a detective. I mean, he solves eight murders a year, all within a matter of days! The longest it’s ever taken him to find a killer is three days. Those are great stats!”
The smart and sexy sidekick
DS Florence Cassell joined the force last series and has already become famous for her crime-fighting shorts. “I’m like the sexy thing – we need sexy on the show!” laughs French actress Joséphine Jobert. “We tried skirts and shorts last year but I didn’t like the skirts. What I love about Florence is that she’s not afraid of fighting, jumping, running away.”
The famous guest stars
“The best job in the world is to come out here to Guadeloupe as a guest artist,” smiles Marshall. Unsurprisingly, the guest-star list reads like a roll call of British television acting talent: Miranda Raison, Gemma Jones, Mathew Horne, Neil Morrissey, Matthew Lewis (above)… The producers must have actors knocking on their door. “That has definitely happened,” admits series producer Yvonne Francas. “But they have to fit the role. Though if Daniel Craig called and wanted to walk out of the sea in his trunks, I’m sure we could find a part for him!”
Death in Paradise returns to BBC1 this evening (Thursday 7th January) at 9.00pm