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The Secret of the Flame Tree is the second episode of Series 6 of Death in Paradise.

Florence finds herself emotionally involved in a case when a former schoolmate is found dead at the foot of a cliff.
―BBC

Synopsis Edit

A schoolfriend of DS Florence Cassell is discovered dead at the base of a cliff. At first, it seems to be suicide. DI Humphrey Goodman has his doubts, leading him to conduct a murder investigation.

Plot Edit

Saint Marie holds its first literary festival at the Malbonne Estate. Organised by Professor Anna Wolf, the festival is a three-day event with star guest Sylvie Baptiste, author of The Flame Tree. Also in attendance is Anna's husband, Doctor Oliver Wolf, Sylvie's editor and assistant, Patricia Lawrence, and Esther Monroe, a PhD student. During a talk given by Patricia to the assembled guests, Esther slips away from the festival heading to a cliff overlooking the coast. After the talk, her body is found by Anna and Oliver who went looking for her.

At Honoré Police Station, DI Humphrey Goodman is in a very good mood, revealing that Martha Lloyd is planning on moving in with him for the rest of her stay on Saint Marie. The report of Esther's death brings the police to the beach on the Malbonne Estate. Her injuries are consistent with a fall. DS Florence Cassell tells Humphrey that the Malbonne Estate is Sylvie Baptiste's home, and that her novel, The Flame Tree, is based there. The principal female character of the novel, Iris, kills herself by jumping off a cliff – the same cliff that Esther seemingly fell from. Florence is shocked to discover the identity of the victim, who was an old school friend. Investigating the cliff face, the find her belongings including a suicide note. The note strikes Humphrey as suspicious. The note was typed then signed, rather than written. The signature is also in biro, and her belongings show she carries an expensive Montblanc fountain pen. Humphrey finds it strange that she would not sign the note with the pen. The belongings also include a laptop cable, indicating she had a laptop which they need to find.

Humphrey questions Anna, Oliver, Sylvie, and Patricia at the festival. He learns that Anna, Oliver, and Esther had been on the island for five days. Esther had spent much of the time at the hotel working on a new chapter for her thesis which is about The Flame Tree, spending time on the island doing research. Esther also interviewed Sylvie about her writing, but the author said she seemed tense. The laptop could not be found, and no one followed Esther to the cliff. Because of this, Humphrey believes that if it is murder, then it had to be one of the four people that she had interacted with prior to her death.

Searching her hotel room, they discover that Esther had argued with an English guest matching the description of Oliver Wolf. They find notes and papers regarding her thesis research, as well as her phone. However, there is no laptop, indicating that someone has taken it. Dwayne Myers and JP Hooper investigate a bungalow on the grounds of the Malbonne Estate, and find a woman who brushes off their questions. Carrying on the investigation, they discover that Esther had lodged a sexual harassment complaint at the university against Oliver Wolf.

Questioning Oliver, he brushes it off as a flirtation, but Humphrey challenges his views of the event. Oliver had been drunk and cornered her in her office. Humphrey asks Oliver if he wanted to silence Esther in case she told his wife of the incident, but Oliver tells him that Anna is aware. Because he has sacrificed his own academic career for hers, she allows him to have discrete affairs. Of course, with the complaint the affair was no longer discrete and wondered how Anna would react to it. When challenged, Anna initially refuted the claims but soon recants. The deal was the Oliver's dalliances would be with women that she did not know, and that students were off-limits.

Esther's parents call Florence and tell her that she had uncovered a secret about The Flame Tree during her research. Florence looks over Esther's belongings and finds a matchbook for Chez Lulu. Investigating the bar, she finds that Esther took interest in a photo showing a picture of Sylvie's sister, Lizzie Baptiste. Records show Lizzie's birth and schooling, but then it appears she disappears. JP recognises the woman in the photo as the same woman from the bungalow on the estate. However, Lizzie is mentally unwell following a breakdown and doesn't want to receive visitors. JP offers to help her with weeding her plants, and she begins to talk with him, revealing that Esther has been to visit her asking about a poem. Despite not seeming capable of the act, Lizzie is added as a suspect.

Esther was comparing Sylvie Baptiste's works including word choice and phrasing, leading the team to Honoré Library. The team discover that The Flame Tree is not Sylvie Baptiste's work but Lizzie's – her breakdown was so severe that she had forgotten that she wrote a novel, allowing Sylvie to pass it off as her own. Sylvie admits that Esther had confronted her about it. Sylvie got Patricia to steal the laptop from her because the revelation would destroy Sylvie's career. But she denies murdering her. Patricia admits to stealing the laptop, but also denies killing Esther.

The next day, Florence shows Humphrey a video file showing Esther with Lizzie. She hopes that reading the poem together on the cliff would jog her memory. With the rest of the suspects at the festival, Lizzie would seem to be the killer but JP doesn't believe it and also notes that the suicide note seems to be beyond her capabilities. When Dwayne arrives having listened to The Flame Tree on audiobook, Humphrey has a brainwave and realises who the killer is.

Gathering the suspects, including Lizzie, he reveals that the killer is Patricia. Patricia had been present at the meeting between Esther and Lizzie, and knew that they would be meeting on the clifftop. Patricia convinced Lizzie that the meeting was no longer happening, and used her technical skills to make it appear she was still giving a talk at the festival. Although she had began the talk in full view of everyone, she had retreated to the side out of view and used a prerecorded speech. In reality, she had gone to the cliff and pushed Esther off, making it look like a suicide. Patricia had committed the murder because if Sylvie's work had been discredited, her position as editor and assistant would have left her financially ruined. Humphrey arrests her, while JP tells Lizzie that The Flame Tree is her work.

Quotes Edit

Cast Edit

Guest Stars Edit

Music Played Edit

Gallery Edit

External Links Edit

Discussion Edit

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Death in Paradise
Series 6

Erupting in Murder
The Secret of the Flame Tree
The Impossible Murder
Stumped in Murder
Man Overboard - Part One
Man Overboard - Part Two
In the Footsteps of a Killer
Murder in the Polls

Series 1Series 2Series 3Series 4Series 5Series 6Series 7Series 8

Notes Edit

  1. BARB, 7 day data
  2. BARB, 28 day data