Sunday, September 21, 2014

Death of a Hollow Man: Caroline Graham

I seldom re-read mysteries, not because I don't want to but because I have too many unread books to read.  But recently I decided I wanted to do a book to movie post on one of the episodes in the Midsomer Murders television series. Only five of the seven books in the Inspector Barnaby series by Caroline Graham were adapted for television. I picked the second book in the series, Death of a Hollow Man, because I knew how the first book ended. For this one, even though I had read the book, and watched the episode, I had forgotten the ending.

It takes over one hundred pages in this book of 268 pages before the murder takes place. The first 105 pages cover the preparation for the play and setting up the background on some of the participants. The actual crime takes place during the first performance of the play, which Inspector Barnaby of Causton CID is attending. Barnaby's wife is the wardrobe mistress and has a small part in the play. His daughter, Cully, attends the play with him and is an aspiring actor. Barnaby even painted some of the props for the play. So he is well acquainted with everyone associated with the play, which is, of course, a challenge.

It surprised me how much I liked this book the second time around. I know I liked the series a lot when I read the books years ago, because once I had read the first two I purchased all of them and read them very shortly thereafter. I had forgotten the biting humor and the wonderful characterizations in the book. The stories seem like cozies (although by the some strict definitions a police procedural is not a cozy), but they are not even close in my opinion. Very fun, not thrillerish, but not cozy either.

It helped that the story is centered on the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society, since I have participated in such a group and know that the actors, directors, and even techies take the whole thing very seriously. It also helped that the play is Amadeus, which I know enough about so that the many players and their roles were not confusing. I also enjoyed reading about the main characters after having watched so many Midsomer Murders episodes.

Inspector Barnaby is such a wonderful character; I never grow tired of him, in a book or on the screen. He leads a normal home life (when he is there); his only demon is that he doesn't like his wife's cooking. He is a smart, insightful investigator, and knows how to handle Sergeant Troy, who is homophobic and boorish.

I will report on a comparison between the book and the TV episode in a future post. I am currently rereading Death in Disguise, the third book in the series. I picked up a copy at the book sale yesterday... a paperback edition with a lovely picture of the grim reaper on the cover. And I wanted to read it immediately, before I re-watch the episode. So I will be reviewing that book in the future too.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  William Morrow, 1990. Orig. pub. 1989.
Length:     268 pages
Format:     Hardback, book club edition
Series:      Chief Inspector Barnaby, #2
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Police Procedural
Source:     I purchased my copy.

22 comments:

  1. I set aside the Carolyn Graham I was reading to read a Christie. Plan to pick it back up again. I do like her writing style because it's easy to fall into and I like Barnaby. So, Troy doesn't get any better eh? Noticed his attitude was less than personable in book one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keishon, Troy definitely does not get any better. In the third in the series, which I am now reading, he is just as bad. It doesn't bother me though, just interesting and humorous.

      Delete
  2. I have yet to read a Carolyn Graham but have watched and loved all the Midsomer Murder episodes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peggy, we have watched all the episodes with the original Inspector Barnaby, but did not start watching any with the new Barnaby. Now we are rewatching them from the beginning, one or two a month.

      Delete
  3. A police detective happy with his home life and without any inner demons. I have to read this.Thanks Tracy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure you would like this series, Neer. Very enjoyable series.

      Delete
  4. Tracy - Oh, you're talking about a series I like very, very much. In fact, I really miss it and wish that Graham had written more than seven novels. I read all of them eagerly and really ought to re-read...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Margot, I wish there were more in that series too. The characters are even better than I remembered. And I like the way the author writes.

      Delete
  5. Tracy, I don't know about this author or her series but I'm inclined to read her novels, perhaps the first Barnaby book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, I haven't read the first one in a long time, but I remember liking it a lot. I hope you can find a copy.

      Delete
  6. I love this series on TV but haven't read any of the books. I always think that Troy will get sorted out eventually because he seems misguided but essentially a good guy on TV. Is he less promising in the novels? I will have to pick one up. Which would you recommend starting with?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary, Troy has less prejudices in the show (or keeps them to himself mostly). I like him in both versions. He serves a useful purpose in the books, especially in the one I just finished (Death in Disguise). Most readers think the first Inspector Barnaby novel, The Killings at Badger's Drift, is the best one ... so probably a good place to start. There is some progression in the characters, but it probably would not hurt to read them out of order.

      Delete
  7. I'll stick to the TV series. My wife and daughter have seen most of them, me I'm probably asleep!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are really good books, Col, even if not your usual type. But I know you already have enough to read. I love the episodes, but not anywhere up the quality of the books, or at least the first ones.

      Delete
    2. I should also have said I haven't really noticed Troy portrayed how you have described. Maybe I did snooze too much, or maybe his more unattractive qualities were sanitised for easier viewing?

      Delete
    3. Col, Troy is definitely sanitized for TV. I find him amusing (in the books) but he is really loutish. Although he does keep it to himself mostly. In the early episodes on TV you can see some of this. In the episode we just watched (Faithful Unto Death), also based on a book, he is overtly unsympathetic to a lesbian.

      Delete
  8. I've never ready any of the books TracyK, very curious to hear how it compares with the TV version (which I am not crazy about but have seen lots of them, regardless)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The books are so much better than I remembered, Sergio. And better than the TV series, but then a book can do so much more than the adaptation. I do love the TV series though. All the shows are not equally riveting but I enjoy the main characters.

      Delete
  9. I read the first one, but no subsequent ones, and you're doing a great job of selling me on this one. I love books set at theatrical productions. Definitely on the list for when the buying embargo is removed....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you would enjoy this one, Moira. You are being so good with your buying embargo. And I am being so bad. No control at all.

      Delete
  10. Have only read the first one-Badger Drift? but may have seen it on the series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Both versions are good. Different but good.

      Delete