Murder mysteries on BBC audio CDs

BBC Audio CD: Charles Paris: Cast In Order Of Disappearance, £9.09 from www.bbcshop.com.

The age of amateur sleuths is alive and kicking in the guise of failing actor turned reluctant detective Charles Paris, one of our more shambolic and more appealing seekers after the truth.

Charles is engaged in an awful film, of which he is characteristically disdainful. But as ever, the real events are the off-stage ones, in a convoluted plot which involves his co-star in all manner of shenanigans.

Charles is playing a middle management vampire opposite swimwear model turned actress Jodie Ricks; but that’s nothing compared to events elsewhere in her life. Accidents are happening in a way which suggests plenty of intent; and Jodie, so it turns out, is facing a blackmailer.

Meanwhile, Charles is confronting a fair few demons on the home front, propping up his personal life and fretting over his career - against which the sleuthing almost seems a relief.

If there’s a problem with this adaptation, it’s that it’s perhaps a touch leisurely to start with. For half an hour, the only mystery is where has that mystery gone; but stick with it and it will surely drag you in, a complex web of threat and intrigue which only the like of Charles - beautifully voiced by Bill Nighy - can penetrate.

BBC Audio CD: Baldi : Death Cap & Devil Take The Hindmost, £9.09 from www.bbcshop.com.

Paolo Baldi, starring David Threlfall, is one of our less likely sleuths, an understated priest. But give him a decent mystery, and he’ll use his essential decency and natural understanding of mankind to get to the bottom of it.

Death Cap and Devil Take The Hindmost are adventures which show him at the top of his game, sharply contrasting tales but both satisfyingly drawn to a conclusion in the way only Baldi can.

In the first, Baldi is recharging his batteries at a monastic retreat far out in County Cork when a sudden death among the Franciscan brothers suggests foul play. The possible culprits are limited and the threat very real as Baldi sniffs out the truth in a community not exactly disposed to cooperate.

In The Devil Take The Hindmost, he finds himself in a very different environment, but violent death is still very much close-by. The demise of a student opens up a dark tale of occult ritual amid plenty of naivety. The resolution is one you won’t see coming - which is all part of the satisfaction of a tale well told.

Kate Brannigan: Clean Break (BBC Radio Crimes), £6.48, from www.bbcshop.com.

With the crime jargon tumbling out every other word, there are times when this radio dramatisation starts to seem just a touch heavy-handed. It’s as if a list of underworld slang has been drawn up - and is being ticked off.

But slowly - maybe just a little too slowly - a decent mystery starts to emerge, one which is worryingly close to home Val McDermid’s bestselling creation Kate Brannigan

Manchester-based private eye Kate Brannigan is not amused when thieves steal a Monet from a stately home where she had arranged the security. She sets off on a chase that takes her across Europe bringing her head to head with organised crime.

Maybe it’s a series that takes a little getting into; maybe a dip into the books would help. But on first taste, I am not sure that Clean Break is a tale which will have you scurrying back to Kate Brannigan.