on January 2, 2004
They are amateurs and pros, London dwellers moving equally comfortably in international society as in that of their occasional forays into the English countryside, and lifelong inhabitants of those rural settings. They investigate crimes in the Thames valley and cities as large as Oxford, midsize towns like a certain Kingsmarkham, and villages with such all-English names as St. Mary Mead or King's Abbot. And they have been portrayed by some of Britain's finest contemporary actors, from Jeremy Brett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke (Sherlock Holmes & Doctor Watson) to Roy Marsden (Commander Adam Dalgliesh), John Thaw and Kevin Whately (D.C.I. Morse & D.S. Lewis), David Jason (D.I. "Jack" Frost), George Baker and Christopher Ravenscroft (D.C.I. Reginald Wexford & D.I. Mike Burden), Peter Davison and Brian Glover (Albert Campion & Magersfontein Lugg), Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter (Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane), David Suchet/Albert Finney (Hercule Poirot) and last but not least Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple, the grandmother of all English village detectives.
To that illustrious group, British author Caroline Graham in 1987 added another sleuthing couple, the middle-aged D.C.I. Tom Barnaby and his young colleague D.S. Gavin Troy, coppers in a cluster of villages which, collectively, make up an area known as Midsomer County, and which could easily rival Agatha Christie's very own St. Mary Mead in per-capita occurrences of treachery, crime and bloodletting. The series' first entry, "The Killings at Badgers Drift," was so successful that it won a Macavity Award for best first mystery and, for its author, an instant loyal following. Before long, the books spawned a television series, which at almost 30 episodes has long since outrun the number of its print originals. Starring as Barnaby and Troy are Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus John Nettles, best known to TV audiences as Jerseyan Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac in the 1980s' series of the same name (based on the books by Andrew Saville), and Daniel Casey, whose most notable other roles to date have been appearances in the BBC's "Our Friends in the North" and the 1998 Catherine Cookson adaptation "The Wingless Bird." Nettles and Casey are an engaging team, not quite faithful to their characters' literary versions - which however works well to their advantage; particularly in the case of Daniel Casey's Troy, who is less brash and more goodnaturedly witty than in the books, and who presents a good foil for Nettles's emphatic Barnaby; in turn overall more reminiscent of George Baker's Wexford than of Nettles's own Bergerac, whose domestic bliss is spoiled, again and again, by the callings of his job; to his regret as much as to his family's; yet, he is to much of a professional not to heed those callings every single time.
With release of the series' episodes already underway in Britain, Acorn Media has now proceeded to the "region 1" transcription of its installments, individually and in collections of four episodes each. And while it is unfortunate that the TV version of "The Killings at Badgers Drift" - which not only introduced the characters of Barnaby and Troy but is also expressly referenced in this first collection's installment "Death's Shadow" - is neither part of this first nor even of the second boxed set released in the U.S., overall this is a most welcome and long overdue opportunity for fans of the series to reacquaint themselves with this winning pair of detectives and the not-so peaceful, albeit wonderfully filmed setting of rural Midsomer County.
This collection features the following episodes:
"Beyond the Grave:" Assisted by Barnaby's son, who is to "shadow" Troy in preparation of a school theatre appearance as a policeman, the two detectives have to get to the bottom of a series of seemingly paranormal events at Aspern Tallow Museum, all the while investigating the murders of a descendant of a long-deceased village hero and another local man who, like so many of the village residents, turns out not to always have been the honorable citizen his neighbors had known him to be.
"Blood Will Out:" Martyr Warren magistrate Hector Bridges is a Falklands hero, but also a man with an irascible temper, which endears him to few of his neighbors - and even less so to the traveler clans who assemble in the village one summer week, and whose leader has a bone of his own to pick with the magistrate. But are the wayfarers - the quintessential "usual suspects" for everything from theft to horsetrading - also guilty of his murder? (And will Barnaby survive the diet imposed on him by his wife and daughter without succumbing to the temptations of candy bars and chocolate cakes?)
"Death's Shadow:" Dark childhood memories haunt successful director Simon Fletcher as he returns to Badgers Drift to teach a summer acting workshop, one of whose attendees is Barnaby's daughter Callie. As he arrives, a series of arcane and seemingly unconnected murders begins in the village. Caught between the investigation and the preparations of the ceremonial confirmation of his marriage vows at Badgers Drift church, Barnaby eventually realizes that he has to dig deep into the hamlet's past to find the deeply disturbed mind responsible for the horrors visited upon its population.
"Strangler's Wood:" The forest's true name is Raven's Wood, but ever since three young women were found there strangled with a necktie years ago, it is more commonly known as "Strangler's Wood." Not surprising, then, that the discovery of yet another murdered woman ten years after the original crimes (this time a beautiful Brazilian model) brings forth premonitions of the worst kind; especially since the culprit responsible for the first three crimes was never caught. But did he really return to his evil ways, as suddenly as he had stopped murdering so long ago? As Barnaby and daughter Callie make an attempt at father-daughter bonding and Troy seizes an opportunity to demonstrate his linguistic prowess, they investigate the dead beauty's movements in Midsomer County - and unmask, yet again, more than one of its residents who is not quite as honorable as he seems.
on March 8, 2004
Any fan of British drama/mysteries will love this set. I am a great fan of series like Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett), Cadfael, MI-5, Campion, Jeeves & Wooster, et cetera. The first movie seemed a little slow to me but I imagine it was so I could become familiar with the characters. The second movie is a great mystery and has some superb acting. The third and fourth are delightful as well. John Nettles is just plain marvelous and does a splendid job of playing a detective, husband, and father. I bought this set because of good reviews here at Amazon and I want to thank you people that reviewed it in a positive way. I agree with you that this is a wonderful series and I am looking forward to seeing the rest.
Imagine Saint Mary Mead. Squared.
That about describes the setting of "Midsomer Murders," a morbidly witty British mystery series based on Caroline Graham's novels. The writing is solid, the acting is sharp, the mysteries are (usually) hard to solve, and the plots are full of crime, dark secrets, sex and murder.
The portrait of Sir Jonathan Lowrie is found slashed in "Beyond the Grave." Then his descendent is found in Lowrie's grave, with his head bashed in. To make matters worse, local woman Sandra believes the ghost of her dead husband is somehow connected with this. But Barnaby and Troy believe there's a human murderer on the loose, and one with specific plans for Sandra...
As Barnaby and his wife Joyce plan to renew their wedding vows, he is called out on a new assignment: a brutal series of slayings of young men who grew up in the village. There seems to be nothing that would link these men together, and no motive for anyone else to kill them. Troy and Barnaby start digging into the village's past, and find an old scandal -- and a tragic death -- that are only just coming to light.
"Strangler's Wood" was the location of several rape-murders a few years ago. Now, a Brazilian cigarette model has been found dead, naked, and strangled. Barnaby is suspicious from the start, that the murderer mysteriously stopped, and has now started again. And with an obsessed ex-cop, a hostile businessman who knew the model, and a creepy little boy who wants to incriminate his dad.
The local magistrate manages to offend everybody in "Blood Will Out," where the nasty Hector Bridges has not only angered some nomadic types, but also his own tense family. Of course, he dies. And now Barnaby uncovers a wide range of suspicious actions (including theft, and an ex-comrade of Bridges') -- and a second body.
Despite this being the first "set," this actually isn't the first season of "Midsomer Murders. Three are from the second season, and one from the third. But newcomers shouldn't let that stop them, since the series is made up of standalones. You can start with any episode and grasp the lead characters pretty quickly.
The whole thing is set in the various villages of Midsomer County, which is picturesque, lush, and full of farms, cute little English villages and cottages. So of course, there are gruesome murders, plotting and tawdry secrets hidden in every corner. But the episodes never get THAT dark; one ep has Barnaby followed by his daughter's boyfriend, who is researching for a police role on TV.
And these cops are pretty believable detectives. John Nettles is absolutely wonderful as the kindly, middle-aged cop with a brain like stainless steel, and Daniel Casey is solid as his younger, brasher assistant. And most of the villagers are played by excellent actors as well, no matter how weird their characters are. Grumpy mediums, mad vicars and nasty little schoolboys are only a few.
Four solid, sometimes creepy mysteries make up "Midsomer Murders - Set One," full of murders that are never exactly what they seem. Definitely worth watching.
on July 10, 2003
Caroline Graham novels are perfect for the small screen, and the BBC has done a perfect job with them in these four films. The scripts are excellent, the casting superb, and the acting and directing are equally spectacular. Inspector Barnaby is appealing, and the glimpses of his family life give these DVDs a depth rarely found in television productions. The themes are serious, and the crimes, while not overly gory, are not trivialized either.
These are perfect for anyone who likes a good mystery. They are village mysteries, but not what I would consider "cozy," in that good people can get hurt. They are riveting, and after each one it takes a while for my heart beat to return to normal!