The episode was adapted from the novel of the same name by author Caroline Graham and was screenplayed by Anthony Horowitz, who was also well-known for adapting dramas such as Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was directed by Jeremy Silberston. It is the first appearance of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy, played by John Nettles and Daniel Casey respectively.
When Emily Simpson is found dead in her house, DCI Barnaby's instincts all lead him to suspect murder. Although she was elderly and everyone seems to have liked her, it seems she may have seen something in the woods that she shouldn't have. There are numerous suspects: the local doctor who lies about his alibi, Iris Rainbird, the local busybody who seems to live beyond her means or her son Dennis, who is the local undertaker. Barnaby also receives information that a death the previous years may not have been an accident. When two other residents of Badger's Drift are murdered, Barnaby uncovers an illicit love affair that the protagonists must keep secret.
When gentle spinster Emily Simpson is murdered in her own home in the seemingly tranquil village of Badger's Drift, it attracts the attention of DCI Tom Barnaby and DS Gavin Troy of Causton CID. When her friend, Lucy Bellringer, is unconvinced that Miss Simpson died of natural causes, she voices her suspicions. Suspects include Iris and Dennis Rainbird, the Lessiter family, which includes Trevor, the local GP, his wife Barbara, and daughter Judith . Other persons of interest are Henry Trace, the landowner and is engaged to young Katherine Lacey; his estate manager is David Whitely, Katherine's artist brother Michael, and Phyllis Cadell. Barnaby also learns of the shooting of Henry's first wife Bella almost two years ago.
- John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby
- Daniel Casey as DS Gavin Troy
- Jane Wymark as Joyce Barnaby
- Laura Howard as Cully Barnaby
- Barry Jackson as Dr. George Bullard
- Renée Asherson as Emily Simpson (as Renee Asherson)
- Rosalie Crutchley as Lucy Bellringer
- Jonathan Firth as Michael Lacey
- Emily Mortimer as Katherine Lacey
- Julian Glover as Henry Trace
- Selina Cadell as Phyllis Cadell
- Christopher Villiers as David Whitely
- Richard Cant as Dennis Rainbird
- Elizabeth Spriggs as Iris Rainbird
- Bill Wallis as Dr. Trevor Lessiter
- Diana Hardcastle as Barbara Lessiter
- Jessica Hynes as Judith Lessiter (as Jessica Stevenson)
- Barbara Young as Anne Quine
- Avril Elgar as Mary Sharpe
- Cory Pulman as Terry Bazely
- Peter Jordan as Counseller 1
- Marlene Sidaway as Counseller 2
- Jonathan Oliver as Counseller 3
- Simon Godwin as Giovanni
- Neil Conrich as Duty Police Officer
- Paul Putner as Policeman
- Nigel Asbridge as Vicar
- Guy Normas as Grave Digger (uncredited)
Prior to the Episode
In the Episode
- This is the first episode to be adapted from a novel by Caroline Graham. However, there are some differences between the script of the episode and the book:
- In the book, both Barnaby's parents are still alive and featured, but in the show, it is revealed later in the series, at different times, that both of his parents must have been dead during the events of the episode.
- The Gavin Troy of the book is less clever than the one in the show, he's married to Maureen and he has a daughter.
- George Bullard's second name in the book is not George, but Jim.
- In the episode, Emily Simpson dies from a broken neck after being struck from behind, but in the book, she was poisoned with hemlock in her red wine.
- In the episode, both Iris Rainbird and her son are brutally murdered, but in the book, only Mrs. Rainbird is killed. Some scenes in the episode even refer only to her death, suggesting that originally the episode followed the original plot of the story, but then it was decided that two murders are better than one.
- This is the first episode when the murderer/murderers die before they can be arrested by Barnaby and Troy.
- This is the first episode to reveal the name of an episode location in it's title. The other episodes are Strangler's Wood, The Green Man, The Maid in Splendour, The Killings of Copenhagen, The Incident at Cooper Hill, The Ghost of Causton Abbey, The Lions of Causton and The Wolf Hunter of Little Worthy.
- Neil Conrich and Christopher Villiers were the first actors to originate recurring characters in the series, Conrich's character of Police Constable Angel appeared in four subsequent episodes concluding in Birds of Prey, and Villiers' character David Whitely later appeared in the Series Two episode entitled Death's Shadow.
- Elizabeth Spriggs and Richard Cant later portrayed Iris Rainbird's sister, Ursula Gooding and nephew Alistair Gooding respectively in the second episode of Series Nine entitled Dead Letters.
The following actors and actresses from the pilot episode of the series have appeared in subsequent episodes:
- Selina Caddell - Midsomer Life
- Christopher Villiers - Death's Shadow
- Richard Cant - Dead Letters
- Elizabeth Spriggs - Dead Letters
- Barbara Young - Last Year's Model
- Marlene Sidaway - Written in Blood, Death's Shadow and Judgement Day
- Paul Putner - Written in Blood