Friday, September 12, 2014

Boy, is this place misnamed

Within the first few minutes of the BBC drama Happy Valley, we learn that Sergeant Catherine Cawood is divorced, living with her sister (a recovering heroin addict), raising her grandson, and is the mother of two children:  one is dead and the other doesn't speak to her.  With all that drama, you'd be forgiven for expecting Catherine to be somewhat depressed, but nothing could be further from the truth.  She's a no-nonsense, organized woman who likes nothing more than diving in among the "scrotes and numpties" on her beat and straightening them out (with force, if necessary).

That is until she learns that Tommy Lee Royce has been released from prison and his back in her town.  Royce is the man that she blames for the suicide of her daughter and the man she fears is her grandson Ryan's father.  She becomes obsessed with finding him (he doesn't seem to be staying with his drugged up mother) and keeping him away from Ryan.

At the same time, in a very "Fargo-esque" plot, accountant Kevin Weatherill is desperate for money.  His wife is suffering from MS, and he's in need of money to pay his daughter's school fees.  Since his father was (to his mind) cheated out of a partnership in the business where Kevin works, he feels he's entitled to a raise from the boss Nevison Gallagher.  Gallagher says he really can't agree to a raise, since he'd have to give a raise to everyone.  Furious, Weatherill approaches a local dodgy character he knows named Ashley Cowgill with a business proposition: a plot to kidnap Gallagher's daughter Anne and split the ransom money.  What could possibly go wrong?

After the kidnapping plan has been set in motion, Weatherill receives all sorts of bad news.  Gallagher's wife has cancer and is not expected to live long.  As a concession to his wife and daughter, Gallagher announces he's not going to give Weatherill a raise, but he will instead fully pay the daughter's school fees.  Humbled and chastened, Weatherill attempts to call off the kidnapping plot, but of course, it's much too late.  As the events spiral out of control and more crimes connected to the plot occur, Weatherill watches helplessly and rehearses what he'll say to Gallagher and/or the police if his part in the kidnapping is discovered.

Naturally, the evil Tommy Lee Royce has gotten wind of the fact that he might have a son, and takes to hanging around Ryan's school.  To further complicate Catherine's life, her ex-husband has lost his job and has started coming around again. He remarried after his marriage to Catherine broke up in the wake of their daughter's suicide and her determination to raise Ryan rather than put him into care.

After Catherine suffers horrific injuries on the job, she begins to spiral into depression.  Ryan is a constant source of worry and trouble both at school and at home.  Her son is still not speaking to her unless absolutely necessary. Her sister shows no signs of moving out (although it's hard to see how Catherine would cope without her).  Her superiors in the police force seem to show no interest in tracking down Tommy Lee Royce.  A tragedy occurs to one of her subordinates and she begins to question her entire career.

There are plenty of terrible and heart-wrenching scenes in the series, making you wonder why the town council in "Happy Valley" hasn't voted on a more appropriate name for the town.  Drugs and crime are rampant and everyone seems pretty miserable.  Good thing they have a resilient and dedicated cop like Sgt. Cawood on the job!

I was pleased to see that Happy Valley and actress Sarah Lancashire were big winners at the recent TV Choice Awards.  There has been some speculation that there might be a second series, so I'll be on the lookout for the further adventures of the glum populace of Happy Valley.  Although I couldn't wait and ordered the DVD, it is currently available as a streaming option from Netflix.

Final Verdict for Happy Valley:  Four Gherkins, for being a gritty look at the day-to-day life of a heroic policewoman

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Design your own murder house tour

As a frequent visitor to London, I'm always drawn to places that are somewhat off the beaten tourist track.  Since London has long been a destination for many people from all walks of life, inevitably there have been some gruesome and shocking crimes that have taken place there.  In the fascinating book Murder Houses of London, author Jan Bondeson takes a look at the places that have been the scenes of murders most foul in the capital city over the past 200 or so years.  Interestingly, in this book, he concentrates of places that the, ahem, student of crime can still visit.  He's put in a great deal of detective work to find the locations of crimes where streets have been renamed, houses renumbered, and various building projects have rendered the locations all but unrecognizable.  Still, if you want to see where John George Haigh dissolved his victims in acid, or where George Joseph Smith dispatched some of his "brides in the bath," this is an indispensable guide!

The book is divided into sections based on areas of London: Westminster, Kensington, Islington, Chelsea and Fulham, etc. and then arranged chronologically.  Many famous cases are covered, as well as ones that I'd never heard of before.  While many of the crimes were "solved" (well, someone was arrested, tried and frequently hanged), there are also many cases that remain unsolved to this day.  I was especially intrigued to learn that the street where I stay on my visits to London, Cartwright Gardens, was the site of two unsolved murders in the 1800s.  The houses are long since gone, so one can hope that the ghosts of the victims have also departed the area!

Murder of Olive Yong from Illustrated Police News
The book contained a great deal of historical information and many cases that are probably not well-known among the general public.  There are many illustrations scattered throughout the book, both black and white pages (mostly from the Illustrated Police News), black and white contemporary photographs, and color pages of what the notorious houses look like today (which I'm sure the current owners greatly appreciate!).

The only slight quibble I have with the book is the tendency for some repetitive language.  The phrase "things weren't looking too good for" defendants in murder trials is used multiple times, as is the habit of calling suspects a "cove."  Still, if you are discussing murders, suspects and trials, I guess there are only so many ways to say the same thing over and over!

I think anyone with an interest in London history or true crime would enjoy this book.  I especially enjoyed the many illustrations from the sadly defunct Illustrated Police News, particularly the startled expressions and wild gestures of those who found the murder victims.  If you've already visited London and been on one of the many Jack the Ripper or ghosts tours, this book provides ample information for you to design your own "murder house tour" on your next visit!

Final Verdict for Murder Houses of London:  Five Gherkins, for being a detailed and well-illustrated look at the violent side of London's history

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mystery solved?

Nearly 200 years since her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever.  I'd always been curious about her death at age 41.  Certainly, there were many ailments in the nineteenth century that were unknown to medical science, so there has always been a lot of speculation concerning the precise cause of her death.  The only thing literary sleuths have had to go on are descriptions of her symptoms in letters from Jane and her family.  Because of this, her death has been attributed variously to Addison's disease, lymphoma, typhus or even a form of tuberculosis.  Her only sister and mother both lived to ripe old ages, and so it would seem that if there was something contagious responsible for her death, that others in the household would have also been sickened.

Enter author Lindsay Ashford and The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen.  She's taken the known research into Austen's life and woven the details into a fascinating story that attempts to account for the strange death of the esteemed author.  The book will be appreciated by Austen fans, because it takes a close look at the various members of Jane's family. I knew she was very close to her sister Cassandra, and I had a vague impression of a brother who inherited the family wealth (what there was of it), so I was surprised to learn that Jane had a total of 6 brothers.  Because of this, the brothers, sisters-in-law (past and present), nieces, nephews and other various relations were a bit hard to keep straight.  Still, it's pretty obvious fairly early on who the villain (or villainess!) of the story is.

The story is told from the point of view of Anne Sharp, governess to Jane's niece Fanny.  Because Jane visits her brother's family quite often, she and Anne form a friendship.  When they are apart, they exchange letters and gossip about various family members.  Anne and Jane both begin to suspect that one of Jane's brothers is a bit too friendly with his sister-in-law, Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth suddenly dies, shortly after the birth of her 10th child, everyone assumes it's a complication of childbirth.

Not until many years after Jane's death does Anne Sharp begin to suspect someone might have wanted to keep Jane from exposing a family secret.  As she begins her detective work into the last few months of Jane's life, she also discovers that quite a few people in Jane's circle of family and friends had sudden and unexplained deaths that nevertheless didn't seem to excite any suspicion.  Taking in all the similar symptoms (including an unusual skin discoloration), Anne deduces that all of the deaths were caused by arsenic poisoning, and she sets out to trace motives back to one particular person.

At the author's note at the end of the book, Lindsay Ashford mentions that there was a lock of Jane Austen's hair sold at auction which was later analyzed and found to contain "levels of arsenic far exceeding that observed in a body's natural state."  Her interesting novel is an attempt to explain why someone close to her may have wanted to ensure Jane Austen's silence forever.

I did enjoy reading the book and getting to know more about the Austen family (albeit in a fictionalized setting). I did think the unmasking of the culprit and his/her motives was a bit of a stretch, but I'm sure stranger things have happened.  If poor Jane did have an abundance of arsenic in her body at the time of death, this explanation is as good as any!

Final Verdict for The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen:  Four Gherkins, for being a plausible look at the cause of death of a beloved author

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Everything but the oink

As a native of the South, I'm probably more partial than most to a good BBQ or pork chop, and we can all appreciate the recent explosion of bacon-related foods and products.  For those who are a bit more discerning in their tastes, the new book The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig is a wonderful look at where you can indulge your love of pork, as well as how to recreate some of the most succulent recipes in your own kitchen.

This is really a thorough and exhaustive look at preparing pork in all its forms.  There are three sections in the book.  The first looks at the various delicious parts of the pig, from bacon and chops to ribs and hams.  Already here there are profiles of cooks who specialize in these meats, as well as tasty recipes.  The second part contains restaurant profiles with an overview, address and contact information, lists of specialties, insider tips and page numbers for recipes from each specific restaurant.  Section three is where we get into the "meat" of the book -- the delicious recipes, many accompanied by mouth-watering photos.  At the back of the book, information is divided into three indices:  Recipe, Location and Contributor.  This helps to quickly locate specific information (and I was crushed to find there were no locations profiled in my own town).

Additionally, there are cute pig cartoons and graphics, as well as factual "Pig Tales" scattered throughout the book.  This is a very informative and interesting look at all things pork related for the foodie or general cook.  Even if you aren't up to building your own fire pit to host your own pig roast, there are plenty of recipes and restaurant locations that will be sure to interest your taste buds!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

MacGyvering your way to mental sharpness

We all know people who are "book smart" yet can't seem achieve success, while at the same time others without much formal education are able to achieve great things.  What is is that the successful people are able to do that eludes the others?  In Beyond IQ, the author Garth Sundem details the aspects of practical intelligence, which he argues is a greater predictor of success than IQ.  He also offers examples and puzzles to help all of us train our brains to think in new ways in order to expand our cognitive abilities and look at everyday situations in new and creative ways.

The book is divided into chapters which cover the various aspects of non-IQ intelligence.  The author says topics came about as a result of his interviews with researchers on the subject of human intelligence, as well as extensive reviews of professional literature.  Some of the topics he covers include creativity, intuition, willpower and problem solving.  There are a variety of word and picture puzzles and activities in each chapter to help re-enforce a particular skill.  Helpfully, the answers are included at the back of the book if you encounter some particularly vexing problems.  While most of the answers are straightforward, I did have a problem with some that I felt had 'areas of gray' in them.  For instance, in the chapter on Practical Intelligence, the author includes some scenarios with four possible reactions.  After choosing your answer, you can look in the back of the book to see the best and worst answer for the questions.  Apparently, these types of questions are frequently used by HR managers to weed out undesirable applicants.  However, I felt that the declaration of the best and worst answers were fairly unhelpful without further explanation as to what these right and wrong answers were supposed to be demonstrating.  It also alarms me to think there might be HR managers out there who administer these tests and blindly follow the "right" answers to weed out applicants (although I suppose this is one way to eliminate people from a large group!).

I liked the variety of subjects covered and exercises that were included.  As many studies have shown, people who engage in mentally challenging activities (crossword puzzles, reading, writing, etc.) remain cognitively sharper into old age, so anything we can do to improve our brain function as we age is beneficial.  I especially liked the exercises meant to help filter out distractions and improve mental focus, although those are the ones that will take the most practice!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Beyond IQ from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fundamental Transitions of Life

The three major transitions in life -- birth, marriage, and death -- have remained pivotal points in society throughout history.  Most of us probably don't have a very clear idea about how these milestones were acknowledged in the past.  The fascinating series Medieval Lives takes a look at these three important events and how people living in England at that time were impacted by them.

Dr. Helen Castor is the program's host.  She is a Cambridge professor, author and TV presenter who is an expert in medieval history.  In telling the stories of these three episodes, Dr. Castor relies on the letters from the Paston family that are housed in the British Library.  The "nouveau riche" Paston family, thank goodness, were so impressed by their own importance that they saved all of their correspondence.  Over 1000 letters spanning three generations form the collection, the earliest examples of private correspondence in the English language.  It's very interesting to hear about the marriage of Margaret Mautby and John Paston through their own words, nearly 600 years later.

Episode One, A Good Birth, discusses how children were brought into the world during the years of the Middle Ages.  Society was slowly changing, but at this time, the Catholic Church still dominated the lives of everyday people.  What you did in this life mattered, but it was all to prepare you for the next (more important) life you would enter after death.  At this time, of course, niceties such as antiseptic and pain relievers were many centuries away, so every birth was extremely dangerous for both mother and child.   Most women entered their "confinement" several weeks before the actual birth.  They would withdraw into a dark, quiet chamber to be attended only by women.  Male doctors were not allowed in the birthing room.  What little was written at the time about female anatomy and childbirth was written by celibate men of the church who had little actual medical knowledge, so there was a lot of erroneous information.

As well as discussing events from the lives of the Paston family, Dr. Castor also refers to the lives of royals, as they were the only people whose lives were chronicled in detail at this time.  Therefore we get to hear the tale of Henry VII's mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was married at age 12 and a mother before she was 14. Also the moving story of King Henry VIII is told.  He travelled to the shrine at Walsingham to give thanks for the birth of his son with Catherine of Aragon, only to be plunged into despair when the child died after only 10 days.  When Henry eventually broke with the Catholic church over his desire to obtain a divorce and re-marry, he also inadvertently deprived women of some of their few comforts from the birthing chamber.  Religious relics gave women in labor a sense of security and a feeling of a connection to God, but these were swept away in the name of religious reform.  The new church was soon dictating what midwives could and couldn't do in the birthing chamber.  So that Anne Boleyn has even more to answer for than we previously thought!

The second episode concerns the way marriages were conducted in this time period.  In medieval times, it was not uncommon for the families of the prospective couple to arrange the match.  Even so, families could not force the couple to marry if they were opposed to the idea -- but no doubt they could try to persuade reluctant partners to consent depending upon how advantageous the marriage would be.  Once a match was arranged, the family of the bride and groom would decide what would be given to the couple upon their marriage.  This way, each family was doing their best to ensure that the newlyweds would start their married life out on a secure footing.  Also at this time, marriage was somewhat of an informal affair.  The bride and groom need only hold hands and say their vows in order for their marriage to be considered valid.

The church saw marriage as the symbolic marriage of Christ and the Church. This meant that they saw the need to formalize and solemnize marriage with rituals.  These included "calling the bans" for three successive Sundays to ensure that both parties were eligible to marry (they weren't related, already married, insane, etc.).  The church also got involved in the sex lives of the new couples, declaring that sex outside marriage was forbidden, but inside marriage it was compulsory.  People who were charged with adultery were excommunicated and publicly whipped.

Although marriage remained fairly easy to arrange, divorce was almost impossible.  There were two kinds of law in the 14th-15th century:  King's law, which dealt with crime and property manners, and church law, which dealt with everything else.  Therefore, if you could no longer live with your spouse, you had to try to convince the church court that your marriage was invalid for some reason.  At least 1/3 of the church law cases at this time concerned marriage issues.  In very rare cases, a divorce was granted, but this just meant that the couple had permission to live apart -- they couldn't re-marry.  Still, I would imagine this would be good enough for people who were regretting hasty marriages!

The final episode concerns how death cast a shadow over the lives of people in medieval times.  Everyone
was concerned with preparing for the afterlife.  In the 12th century, the idea of Purgatory had become official church doctrine.  People went to Purgatory for a time before ascending to heaven, but their suffering could be lessened by prayers and masses said for them by the living.  The led to people leaving money in their wills for these intercessions to be held for them.  It turned out to be quite a money-maker for the church, which also contributed to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, as people were fed up with what they perceived to be corruption within the church.

At the same time, death was all around.  In 1348 the plague came to England, and nearly 1/3 of the population was wiped out.  This meant that those who died didn't have the opportunity for last rites to be administered by a priest.  Because of this, people were advised to constantly follow church teachings, because death could come at any time and there might not be a priest nearby to help resolve any sins that might be on your conscience.

I enjoyed the way Dr. Castor used the letters from the Paston family to make history come alive.  It was easy to sympathize with the young Margaret, nervously expecting her first child and writing her husband to ask him to hurry home.  Decades later, Margaret is a somewhat interfering mother, attempting to block her daughter from making a socially ill-advised marriage.  The letters concerning Margaret's defiant daughter Margery and her suitor, the "shop keeper's son" (the horror!) make the family and its interpersonal
relationships seem not so different from disapproving parents today.  Dr. Castor, while an expert on medieval history herself, also speaks with other experts in the field who contribute interesting insights into the time period.

The set also contains a Viewer's Guide with helpful information explaining the Middle Ages, as well as a timeline of important events that happened during this time.  There's also an interesting section on "Medieval Megastars" -- people who made their marks upon history in one way or another.  The final section of the guide discusses the Black Death, which had such a devastating effect on the people of this time.  All in all, this is a very fascinating look at the daily lives of people during this often overlooked time period.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Medieval Lives from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for Medieval Lives: Four Gherkins, for being an intimate look into the daily lives of our medieval ancestors

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's not in the Motives for Murder handbook

From watching British mystery shows such as Prime Suspect or Vera, you'd think all female police officers are disrespected by their male colleagues, and so bitter about it that they turn to the bottle and avoid personal relationships.  Because of this, the delightful series Murder in Suburbia is a breath of fresh air.  The two female officers, DI Kate Ashworth (Caroline Catz) and DS Emma Scribbins (Lisa Faulkner) are two young and glamorous detectives who investigate crimes while also trying to navigate the tricky world of dating.  Their hunky boss, DCI Sullivan, is a welcome distraction from the daily grind, even if their detective skills can't help them learn much about his personal life.

Episode one begins with the discovery of a woman who has been murdered in her own home.  The victim, Nicola Pengelly, was stabbed to death.  It turns out that she was a member of a singles club called Applejacks, even though she was engaged.  She also has an ex-husband who is a shady car salesman.  Still, "Ash" and "Scribbs" feel that the dating club is the key to the mystery, so they attend one of the club's social nights (dressed as schoolgirls) to see if they can learn anything.  The owners of the club, Ralph and Maxine Appleby, also seem a bit shady.  There's no shortage of suspects, but when another body turns up, the two detectives have to hurry and solve the mystery before the entire dating club is wiped out.

In the second episode, a man is found dead at a private golf club.  The club was hosting his bachelor party, and the prospective groom is found floating in the pool with his hands handcuffed behind him.  He was last seen with the stripper hired to entertain the party guests, so she is the immediate suspect.  While attempting to track her down, Kate and Emma find out that the mayor of Middleford wanted to sell off some of the club's land for personal gain -- a move that was vetoed by the dead man.  While investigating, they discover that their boss, DCI Sullivan, is also a member of the club and is rather chummy with the mayor. Will his links to the golf club keep the truth from being exposed?

The detective duo is called to Millionaire's Row to investigate a murder in episode three.  The body of Gideon Finch is found in the front seat of his burned out car.  The man's widow, Hannah, doesn't seem too upset about his death, since she's having an affair with his ne'er-do-well younger brother.  Hannah tells the police that she suspects her deceased husband was carrying on with her married neighbor, Beth Whitmore.  Beth, whose husband Phillip discovered the body while jogging, denies having an affair and further states that Gideon and Hannah weren't the right sort of people for their exclusive neighborhood.  At the same time, Kate is dating a promising man, but her enthusiastic dinner table talk about the more gruesome aspects of her job seem to put him off.  Emma, meanwhile, is on the lookout for an outfit to wear to an ex's wedding that will make him sorry he let her go.  Too bad she only has Kate's closet to raid, since they don't exactly have the same taste in fashion.

When a body is found outside a charity shop, it looks as though it was a random killing.  However, it soon transpires that the victim, Lynn Chichester, was a volunteer at the shop.  Things become even more strange when it transpires that Lynn and her husband, as well as the couple that ran the shop, were involved in a bit of wife-swapping with two other couples.  Did jealousy cause someone to do her in?  Or did she find out something she shouldn't have involving the shop?  There's no shortage of suspects, and Emma is a bit distracted on the job as she tries to extricate herself from an affair with a married man.

The cut-throat world of school admissions forms the backdrop for the events in episode 5.  School secretary Helen McKee is walking along the sidewalk one evening when a car deliberately swerves to hit her.  Everyone believes that Helen helped to decide which children got admitted to the school, especially if they had attractive fathers.  The headmaster denies she had any influence on school admissions, but how else to explain how some children who didn't even live in the school's "catchment area" were admitted, while others were rejected?  Some parents whose children were rejected are very bitter about Helen's involvement in the admissions process, so did one of them harbor enough resentment to do her in?  Or was there something sinister in her private life?

The final episode in season one concerns a man whose DIY projects apparently drive someone to murder.  The man, Bernard Lloyd, is hated by everyone for his noisy building projects, but it's his wife Wendy (Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey!) who's found with a bloody hammer standing over his dead body.  She says she can't remember what happened.  Since so many people had a motive for wanting to quiet Bernard down, Kate and Emma have to wonder why he was killed at this precise time.  Did someone have a new beef with him?  Or did his long-lost son finally come back to exact revenge?  Meanwhile, Kate is trying to sell her flat, but is dismayed when DCI Sullivan comes to look at it for his tall, blonde "friend" Brandi.

Series two starts off on a bit of sinister note, when a local schoolgirl (who dabbled in witchcraft) is found dead in a cemetery.  Holly Andrews not only created "hex dolls" of her enemies, she kept a coded diary which keeps Emma busy with a decyphering project. Holly was mean to other students, was involved in a love triangle with two other students, and seemed to have an inappropriate relationship with a teacher.  Unfortunately, DCI Sullivan is away, so the detectives have to contend with his prickly replacement, Helen Whittle, who moves her desk into their office.  It's also hard to concentrate on the job when Emma keeps unintentionally injuring her new boyfriend.

No one really is in mourning when slimy estate agent Phil Jakes is found murdered in his office.  Neither his co-workers nor clients have anything good to say about him.  He was having a competition with his co-worker Anita to see who could sleep with the most clients.  Could a disgruntled partner of one of their conquests have been the murderer?  Plenty of clients feel that Jakes undervalued their properties to get quicker sales, so any of them might have a motive for murder.  The day that he died, Jakes was telling everyone how he was coming into some money soon, and since he was so underhanded, everyone figures he must have been blackmailing someone.  With so many possible killers, Kate and Emma have their hands full trying to find the guilty one.

A wedding is the scene of a particularly tawdry murder in episode 3.  A man is standing in an ornamental pond, drunkenly urinating during the reception after his daughter's wedding, when someone throws a live wire into the water.  Again, the victim is so disliked that no one is really upset by his death.  Still, Kate and Emma are determined to track down the killer.  The happy couple, David and Nuala, have plenty of problems.  David, a real mama's boy, works at the family business, even though his father is less than impressed by his abilities.  Nuala is the lower-class waitress who attracted his attention, much to the disgust of David's snobby mother.  Nuala's deceased father spent all his time at the pub.  While looking over the dead man's flat, Emma is attacked by an intruder.  To make matters worse, DCI Sullivan is tooling around the station parking lot in a sports car with a mystery woman.

The world of salsa dancing heats up enough to kill local enthusiast Sandra Foy in episode 4.  While dancing around her living room after a lesson, someone comes in and twirls her off her balcony.  As usual, there are plenty of people that had reason to want Sandra dead.  Her husband owns a travel business which is in financial trouble.  Jez Hughes, who works at the salsa club, broke off with his long term dancing partner Felicity in order to enter a competition with Sandra.  Roberto, the hunky Italian dancing instructor, has been having an affair with Sandra.  He wanted her to leave her husband, but she refused.  The same day Sandra died, someone threw paint over her car.  Were the two incidents related? It turns out Kate and DCI Sullivan share an interest in salsa dancing . . .

Who knew dog walking would be so dangerous?  Dog walker Christine Archer has no problem controlling the dogs, it's the people she can't deal with.  While walking the dogs someone kills her with a blow to the head.  Christine ran a kennel, and once again there are plenty of people who might have reason to want her dead.  There's her shady business partner, Steve, "the dog whisperer"  as well as the Eyshers, whose dog got pregnant while being looked after at the kennels.  Christine's friend Estelle seems upset, but it is because her friend was murdered, or the fact that her dog Trixie has run away?

The final episode in the series takes us to Birch Grove retirement home where Johnny Jones, who was a big star in the 1950s, is still entertaining the ladies.  He lives at the home with his wife of 45 years, but she is growing tired of his philandering ways (after 45 years, you would, too!).  When he's found drowned in the bath, it looks like death could have been from complications from his recent heart surgery -- except for the bruising around his ankles and the toupee stuffed in his mouth.  Drugs are missing from the nursing home's office, so Kate and Emma decide to spend the night in the hopes of witnessing some dodgy behavior.  Meanwhile, DCI Sullivan and Kate are doing surveillance when, to avoid being spotted by the criminal, Sullivan initiates a very passionate kiss.  Is this the start of something exciting, or was he only acting in the line of duty?

This set contains all 12 episodes from the two seasons of the series, which were originally broadcast in 2004-2005.  I really enjoyed all of the mysteries and the interplay between the three main characters.  The humorous touches made the series extremely enjoyable.  I also thought the constant romantic entanglements of the two female leads made them seem more down-to-earth and likable.  It's too bad the series ended after only two seasons, because it would have been interesting to see if the relationship between Kate and the boss went anywhere, or if Emma would manage to find a suitable boyfriend that she didn't injure.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Murder in Suburbia: Complete Collection from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for Murder in Suburbia: Complete Collection:  Five Gherkins, for being a lighthearted look at the murky world of suburban crime