Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What sort of effort would it take to dislodge a gargoyle?

Thank heavens, the good people of Midsomer are at it again -- killing each other, I mean! Even though they live in a beautiful area seemingly far from "big city" problems, there's never a shortage of recently dispatched bodies for DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones to investigate.  This is certainly still the case in Midsomer Murders: Set 23.

This set includes three new mysteries which were originally broadcast in the UK in 2012-13.  All the familiar elements are there:  jealousy, greed, illicit affairs, etc. It's left to Barnaby and Jones to figure out which of the many suspects is lying and separate the multitude of motives into the one that eventually led to murder.

Dark Rider is the first story.  A headless rider on a gray horse means death for members of the
DeQuetteville family.  Family legend states that the rider is the ghost of ancestor Geoffrey DeQuetteville, and if he points at you, you don't have much time left on earth.  This understandably upsets Bentham DeQuetteville, who is woken up during a violent evening thunderstorm and decides that is the perfect time to go up on the roof to repair a flag that has come loose in the wind.  He looks over the edge, spots the horseman, and immediately falls to his death.  Unfortunately, his eccentric family provides plenty of suspects who might have wanted to frighten the old man to death.  There is also the feud the family has been having with the next door neighbors -- a feud that has extended for nearly 400 years.  When more family members meet their deaths after spotting the ghostly figure, Barnaby is faced with the task of hunting a killer that may have died centuries ago.

In Murder of Innocence, convicted killer Grady Felton returns to his hometown after being released from prison.  The people of the town haven't forgotten his crime, nor forgiven him.  He immediately becomes a target of threats and intimidation, mostly from the family of the person he was sent to prison for killing. The Denning family hasn't gotten over the death of their son Daniel, who was killed after supposedly confronting Grady about poaching on Denning land.  Grady only wants to sell his family cottage and get out of town, but no one is willing to cross the Dennings to do business with him.  Before he was released from prison, Grady Felton's "hit list" of people who were responsible for putting him in prison was discovered.  DS Ben Jones is one of the names on the list, leading Barnaby to become especially concerned when some of the people on the list die in unusual "accidents."  At the same time, Barnaby is being cajoled into getting in shape by his wife.  He has to pass a physical for the Chief Constable exam.  Jones is also going to be up for the exam, but he seems remarkably unconcerned about his fitness levels.  Must be due to the cute new female firefighter he's been seeing . . .


Not much excitement happens in the Midsomer area, so the locals are thrilled to attend the Stella Harris Film Festival in the final episode, Death and the Divas.  Stella is a local girl who starred in several 1960s horror films.  The audience watches one of her films and then Stella is introduced to the crowd.  As she approaches the microphone to speak, her comments are ignored because the crowd's attention is captured by a new arrival.  Her much more famous actress sister Diana Davenport has shown up.  Diana left the village for Hollywood nearly 40 years ago and hasn't looked back.  Barnaby is called away from the festival by the discovery of a body in a house nearby.  Eve Lomax was writing a book about the acting sisters, and it looks as if she's been bitten by a vampire -- eerily re-creating the scene from the movie just shown at the film festival.  As days pass, more people are killed in ways that seem to echo scenes from Stella's films.  Stella's career stalled just as Diana's took off, so it looks like someone is trying to get revenge for Stella.  At the same time, one of the suspects owns an organic farm and the hunky delivery man seems to be delivering more than vegetables to the lonely housewives of Midsomer County.  During the course of the investigation, we learn both that Barnaby is a fan of horror films -- while Sykes the dog decidedly is not!

The set also includes a fascinating "Behind the Scenes" feature about the making of the Death and the Divas episode.  The episode is meant as a homage to the 1960s British horror films that still have many devoted fans.  Two actors from that period, Caroline Munro and John Carson, appear in the horror films that are shown from that era.  It is also fascinating to get a look at some of the background elements of the series, including showing how fog is made!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Midsomer Murders: Set 23 from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for Midsomer Murders: Set 23 Four Gherkins, for being a welcome visit back to a beautiful county with an unusually high crime rate!

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