If you’re not familiar with Midsomer Murders, the British detective series premiered in 1997 on ITV and is based on the books by Caroline Graham. The current lead character is DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) who works for Causton CID (Criminal Investigation Division). He’s the younger cousin of Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and joined the show in 2011 after Nettles left.
The stories revolve around the Barnabys’ efforts to solve the many murders that take place behind the well-trimmed hedges of the fictional English county of Midsomer. Jason Hughes plays Barnaby’s protégé, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones with assorted guest stars, including Daniel Casey, Stephanie Cole, Samantha Bond, Maggie Steed, Malcolm Sinclair, Ronald Pickup, and Simon Williams.
By all accounts, the pastoral setting should be a beacon of British civility, but instead, homicidal mania rules. The killings are not your standard murders either. They’re usually somewhat bizarre (which makes it more fun for us), and almost always committed by a local resident. Really makes you wonder what goes on behind the veneer of these real-life serene settings, doesn’t it? And might have you taking a second look at your neighbors.
The dark humor in most of the episodes isn’t for kids, and the creepy undertone is accentuated by Jim Parker’s waltzy theme music that makes me think of circus music gone horribly wrong. Which, again, makes it more fun for those of us with twisted minds.
Here’s the rundown on the mysteries included in this set, which includes episodes from former sets 13, 14, 15 and 16.
1) Dance with the Dead: Tom Barnaby and Ben Jones investigate the death of Simon Bright, who’s found dead inside an old World War II vintage Humber parked at an abandoned airfield. From all appearances, the death appears to be a suicide, but the pathologist determines that the man suffered a severe blow to the dead and may, in fact, have been unconscious when he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Simon Bright’s girlfriend, Laura Sharp, is nowhere to be found, but the death of the aging village Lothario and the attempted murder of another of her friends narrows the list of possible murderers. Barnaby is convinced that one of Laura’s ex-lovers is responsible, but given her rather active life, the question becomes which one?
2) The Animal Within: When Faith Alexander arrives in Midsomer Deverell to meet her long-lost uncle Rex Masters, she’s surprised to find he has disappeared and told everyone she was killed in a plane crash. Then Rex’s body is found in the weir, and his friends produce wills, each claiming to inherit his fortune. But what is the truth about Rex’s life of mischief-making, and who wanted him dead?
3) King’s Crystal: King’s Crystal, a glassware factory in Midsomer Magna, faces ruin following the death of its co-owner Alan King. His widow, Hilary, angers her son Ian by marrying Alan’s brother Charles, and rumors circulate that Charles and accountant Peter Baxter embezzled funds. When Peter is stabbed to death with a Masonic dagger and Ian starts behaving strangely after finding his father’s sketchbook, Barnaby is called. But the answer lies in Cully’s new production.
4) The Axeman Cometh: Badger’s Drift plays host to the Midsomer Rock Festival — with murderous consequences, of course.
5) Death and Dust: Barnaby and Jones are called to investigate a series of murders involving a pair of feuding families. Stephanie Cole (Doc Martin) plays the former mother-in-law to one of the male family members.
6) Picture of Innocence: Someone puts Barnaby in the frame in the murders of two rival photographers and is ordered to stay home on virtual house arrest. Head bashings abound.
7) They Seek Him Here: A director helms a cheap version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, complete with guillotine on set. The murder apparatus predictable, but certainly not the murderer. This one is definitely not for kids.
8) Death in a Chocolate Box: Barnaby investigates a murder of a former friend and colleague in Midsomer Holm, a small village inhabited by reformed ex-cons.
9) Blood Wedding: Barnaby deals with a murder at the wedding reception for a local aristocratic family, as well as daughter Cully’s upcoming nuptials.
10) Shot at Dawn: A 90-year-old feud between two families, the Hicks and the Hammonds, appears to have escalated to murder.
11) Left for Dead: Jones is brought back to his home town to help investigate a series of murders linked to childhood friends and events that occurred years earlier.
12) Midsomer Life: When a man who’s been missing for two weeks is found dead in the woods near Midsomer, Barnaby finds connections between him and a magazine editor known for his killing reviews of local hotels and restaurants.
13) The Magician’s Nephew: The traditions of a local cult in Midsomer, the Temple of Thoth, appear to be related to a series of murders using poison from the poison dart frog.
14) Days of Misrule: During the Christmas days, Barnaby has to solve an explosion, as well as a number of murders near a freight company while trying to cope with his acting CS who has very strong beliefs about teamwork.
15) Talking to the Dead: Barnaby finds connections between a supposedly haunted forest, the disappearance of two couples, and a gang of antiquity thieves.
Bonus Episode: The Magician’s Nephew with commentary by John Nettles and Jane Wymark.