Monday, July 29, 2013

Trouble bubbling away under the surface


Midsomer Murders has become a beloved series all over the world due to the beautiful settings and interesting characters who make up the fictional county of Midsomer in England.  On July 29, sets 1-5 of the series will be released.  In Set 1, the five episodes that make up this new release are shown in their original UK broadcast order from 1998.

DCI Tom Barnaby has the misfortune to live in the lovely town of Causton, where bodies are forever turning up having been dispatched in all sorts of gruesome and imaginative ways.  Luckily, he likes nothing better than to get involved in solving a murder case.  He's also fortunate that every village seems to have more than its fair share of nosy residents who have nothing better to do than spy on their neighbors (some even take detailed notes on the various comings and goings).  Although he never seems to be in any danger from the assorted killers, he does take his life into his own hands on a daily basis, both by eating his wife's dubious cooking and by being driven around by his less-than-attentive Sergeant, Gavin Troy.

The episodes that make up this set are:

The Killings at Badger’s Drift -- An elderly woman is found dead at the foot of her staircase, her neck broken.  Was it an accident or murder?  Barnaby soon discovers a link to a mysterious "accidental" death a few years previously, and when new bodies start turning up, he has to work fast to connect all the deaths.


Written in Blood -- The Midsomer writer's group is thrilled to have the noted author Max Jennings speak at one of their meetings.  They do think it's odd that there seems to be some tension between Jennings and their host for the evening, Gerald Hadleigh.  When Gerald is found dead the next morning, secrets everyone has tried to keep hidden will eventually be uncovered.

Death of a Hollow Man -- Tom and Joyce Barnaby are involved in helping the local Causton theater group with their production of "Amadeus."  While the play is still in rehearsals, the body of a woman turns up in a local lake.  She happens to be the only living relative of the star of the show, the arrogant Esslyn Carmichael.  When a horrible event takes place on opening night, Barnaby must once again attempt to connect the dots and discover the culprit behind the murders.

Faithful Unto Death -- People in the village of Morton Fendle aren't very happy with George Hollingsworth.   He's convinced people to invest in his project to turn an old mill into an artists' center, but the project has gone bust and everyone has lost their money.  When George's wife Simone is kidnapped, Barnaby must try to figure out which disgruntled investor is behind the deed. 

Death in Disguise -- The Lodge of the Golden Windhorse is a commune where people come to escape the modern world and gain wisdom from "the master," Ian Cragie.  Barnaby is called in when one of the members ends up dead at the bottom of a staircase.  Was it an accident, or was he pushed?  The various members of the commune all have secrets, and sorting them out will eventually find the killer(s) -- yes, more than one person meets their demise!

The settings are always so gorgeous in Midsomer Murders that it's a shame the only people who seem
to live in the area are either murderers or murder victims!  I enjoy all the personal touches we get to see of Barnaby's home life, with Joyce's ever more outlandish recipes, their daughter Cully's boyfriends and trips abroad, and poor Sergeant Troy attempting to do his job in the shadow of his somewhat sarcastic boss.  This set also features a map of  Midsomer County , as well as interesting production notes.  I was astounded to read that it costs over $2 million to film each episode of Midsomer Murders.  And I thought they just found a gorgeous village and pressed "record!" 
 
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Midsomer Murders: Series 1 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for Midsomer Murders: Series 1: Five Gherkins, for being an engrossing look at the murderous residents of a lovely part of England

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