Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Episode of Death in Paradise inspired by Ian Fleming?

A recent episode of Death in Paradise, a murder mystery series set on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie (actually Guadeloupe), might be of interest to Bond fans. In the episode, DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon) investigates the death on the island of a thriller writer, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Ian Fleming.

The writer, Frank O'Toole, is the author of some 40 thrillers, including spy novels. He lives in a large house, apparently single storey, on a hillside overlooking the sea, and enjoys access to the beach via steps leading from the house. The house has a veranda and large glassless windows with jalousies. For all I know, houses like this may exist all over the Caribbean, but my immediate thought when I saw it was of Goldeneye, Fleming’s Jamaican home.

The hero of Frank O'Toole's novels is a 'hard-boiled code-breaker' called Jim Harvey. In one of his adventures, With My Little Eye (a title that perhaps owes more to Agatha Christie than Fleming), Harvey is tasked with tracking down a 'deadly assassin in Ecuador', a plot with shades of The Man with the Golden Gun. In another allusion to Bond, or at least the film Bond, Jack Mooney notes (having read the book after O'Toole's wife tells him that 'if you want to know my husband, you have to read him') that by page 13, Harvey has already slept with the woman he's been spying on.

There are other details that recall Fleming. Frank O'Toole writes in a room overlooking the sea, and, though the series setting is contemporary, he uses an old typewriter. He writes one book a year, and we learn that he was a journalist before turning to novels. All of which sounds rather familiar.

Curiously, despite all these apparent nods to Fleming, Frank O’Toole is described as a ‘budget le CarrĂ©’. Do I detect a trace of condescension on the part of the script writers? With John le CarrĂ© popularly considered to be the superior writer, perhaps ‘budget Fleming’ seemed less credible.

Episode 3 of series 7 is enjoyable, undemanding fare, and the Fleming aspect adds to the enjoyment. At the time of writing, the episode is available to watch via the BBC’s iPlayer.

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