Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A welcome visit with old and new friends

After a long and productive career catching the evildoers around the picturesque Midsomer area, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby has left the crime solving to his Detective Sergeant, Ben Jones.  If Jones thought he was going to be promoted to the top spot, he was sadly mistaken.  A new DCI, who happens to be the cousin of the former one, John Barnaby, comes in to take the reins.  The 21st set of the delightful Midsomer Murders: Set 21 features all the things that make the series so enjoyable: friendly banter, lovely scenery, and not-too-graphic murders.


This set features four episodes:

Episode One: Death in the Slow Lane takes place at a private girls' boarding school.  DCI Barnaby is attempting to get his bearings in his new assignment, living among unpacked boxes and fending off the advances of his new female neighbors.  His first case to solve in Midsomer involves both a new and old murder.  He also must adjust to the sometimes quirky ways of his new town and co-workers.  The coroner, George Bullard, has a perfectly rational natural/accidental explanation for nearly every death that crosses his path.  It's up to the skeptical Barnaby to work out who is really responsible for the deaths.  We are also gradually exposed to Barnaby's family situation, starting with his "sprechhund" Sykes, who gets to hear all the theories as Barnaby works them out.

The second episode is Dark Secrets, takes place mostly at a stately country home and at a nearby artists' colony.  A social services worker, something of a busybody, turns up dead, and Barnaby and Jones need to question everyone in the vicinity to solve the case.  Naturally, another body turns up before they are able to work out who the culprit is.  There's more development on the home front as Barnaby's wife Sarah arrives to take over as head of Causton Comprehensive School.  Mirroring her husband's situation, the existing employees are not especially pleased that the new head is an outsider, rather than one of their own.

Echos of the Dead, the third installment, is the goriest of the lot.  Someone seems to be re-enacting scenes from famous British murder cases.  The first is a woman found drowned in the tub, with a reference written on the mirror to the famous "Brides in the Bath" case.  Unfortunately, this time there are no shortage of suspects:  a former bent cop who now runs a pub, his wife who used to work in the S&M industry (is it an industry?), a somewhat odd gas station attendant, etc.  Basically, most of the townspeople in this episode are a bit weird.  This episode is chock full of familiar faces for fans of British TV, though.  We've got Kacey Ainsworth (Little Mo from Eastenders), Pam Ferris (of Rosemary and Thyme fame) and Sarah Smart (who most recently graced our screens in Wallander).  Poor Sarah Smart spends most of this episode sniveling, though, so it's perhaps not her most attractive role.

The final episode, The Oblong Murders, requires DS Jones to go undercover as a prospective member of a local cult in order to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of one of the members.  He turns out not to be the only undercover operative there, and he also turns out to be the object of affection of some of the female cult members.  Sykes the dog also has some adjusting to do as he is sent for an audition at a doggy day care.
The new DCI Barnaby gets on well with his underling DS Jones, and he seems to be fitting well into Midsomer, even if the local customs still confound him.  At one point, someone mentions that a possible witness has moved to London, to which Barnaby replies, "Who can blame him?"  Still, I'm sure he will continue to be an asset to the police force in Midsomer for a long time to come!

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Midsomer Murders: Set 21 from Acorn Media

Final Verdict for Midsomer Murders: Set 12 Four Gherkins, for being a delightful visit to a beautiful part of the country which houses some of its most devious criminal minds

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