Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Better an empty house than a bad tennant

It was certainly not easy for Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby to come to Causton to take over the reigns from his cousin, DCI Tom Barnaby.  After all, the county of Midsomer, while undeniably charming, seems to have more than its fair share of violent deaths.  Luckily, DCI Barnaby is ably assisted by DS Ben Jones, as they investigate the dark doings in the surrounding villages in Set 22 of Midsomer Murders

The four episodes which compose Set 22 are:

The Sleeper Under the Hill -- a farmer is discovered disemboweled on the Stonehenge-like rock formation on his property.  The local New Dawn Druid community had recently expressed outrage at his plan to cut off access to the stones, but were they angry enough to commit murder? 
 
The Night of the Stag -- DCI Barnaby and DS Jones are enjoying a cool drink at the local Cider Fayre
when Barnaby suddenly becomes violently ill.  No wonder, as the body of Customs Officer Peter Slim is discovered in the cider vat.  Slim had been on the trail of some illicit alcohol, so the detectives attempt to track down the source of the brew, known as "the Beast," too.  But then there's that odd temperance preacher Reverend Grigor and some strange ancient rites that also need investigating.

A Sacred Trust -- At the Midsomer Priory, where only four nuns now reside, vandals break the stained glass window.  The nuns don't want police involvement, but they can't refuse police assistance when one of them turns up strangled in the chicken coop.  Soon after,  £60,000 worth of silver is discovered to be missing from the safe.  Who would want to murder and steal from nuns?  It's up to Barnaby to keep their numbers from dwindling further.
 
A Rare Bird -- the fiercely competitive world of birdwatchers is the setting as the president of the Midsomer-in-the-Marsh Ornithological Society is found murdered.  There was the big dust-up that happened at their most recent meeting, when one member swore he'd seen the rare Blue Crested Hoopoe, which had never been sighted in England before.  Harsh words were exchanged, but was that enough to cause the murder?
 
As always, there was plenty of lovely scenery to be glimpsed amongst all the corpses and blood!  This series also introduced the new medical examiner, Dr. Kate Wilding (played by Lily Allen's real-life stepmother, Tamzin Malleson).  She's amazingly able to pinpoint time and manner of death without too much trouble, which makes Barnaby's job considerably easier, as he's able to sort out his suspects based on alibis for the time of death!   DCI Barnaby and his wife are shadowed in all their activities by their very active and inquisitive dog, Sykes, whose photo even takes a prominent place in the living room.
 
I was interested in how this series looked at some of the more negative aspects of village life (well, aside from all the murders and spying on your neighbors which seem to be par for the course!).  For instance, in one episode there was a character referred to as "The French" because his family had only moved to the village in Norman times (that is, around the year 1066).  Obviously, all these "in-comers" are unwelcome in Midsomer!  This set also features an interesting bonus feature titled, "Midsomer in Conversation" where the principle actors talk about their careers and their work on the series.  These episodes originally aired in 2011-12.
 
Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Midsomer Murders: Set 22 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review
 
Final Verdict for Midsomer Murders: Set 22 Five Gherkins, for being a beautiful, if unsettling, look at life in a picturesque English county

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