I love British TV. In particular, the cozy mysteries crack me up. The U.K. has a low rate of violent crime. But if you believe these television shows, Brits are murdering each other on a Westerosi scale.
Let’s look at the idyllic fictional English town of Midsomer. At least, it looks idyllic– until you start digging beneath those thatched roofs and climbing roses and into its dark underbelly. One blogger has calculated that, while London sees about 11 murders per million residents per year, the murder rate in the small town of Midsomer works out to a staggering 134 murders per million! Even New York City’s rate is only 36 per million.
In Midsomer, as in many fictional British towns, there are actual police detectives, but the kill rate in the BBC’s English countryside is so high that there apparently aren’t enough professionals to go around in many areas of the country. So in village and shire, public-minded doctors, chefs, priests, vicars, novelists, stage magicians, and society matrons all keep busy solving murder mysteries in their spare time. When a killer strikes, the amateur detective rises from a chintz-covered sofa, sets out from a 200-year-old cottage that boasts a quaint name on a hand-lettered sign by the door, and pedals to the murder scene on an antique bicycle with a wicker basket.
Rosemary and Thyme might look like nice British gardener ladies in sweater vests, but if you hire this pair to landscape your yard, that stinging nettle is not the only thing that’s going to die. And Father Brown’s parish in the Cotswolds is full of charmingly quirky characters who drink a lot of tea. But watch out: many of them are armed. And the tea might be poisoned. Bless me father, for I have sinned….