Midsomer Murders Set 15

Midsomer Murders Set 15 (DVD Cover)

Recurring character(s): Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark), Cully Barnaby (Laura Howard), Dr. Bullard (Barry Jackson)

Director: Various

Original air date(s): 05/10/2008 to 05/24/2008
DVD Date: 06/01/2010

Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 300 minutes

Note(s): Episodes in this series are based on characters created by Caroline Graham.

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Midsomer Murders Set 15

Review: Set 15 includes the first three episodes from the 11th season of Midsomer Murders that originally aired on ITV during May 2008.

John Nettles is terrific as always in the role of DCI Tom Barnaby, and I must say I'm coming to the conclusion that Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones is the best of the three characters who have played Barnaby's protégé over the years.

"Blood Wedding" (synopsis from the studio): Barnaby is torn between work and family obligations when the maid of honor at a high-society wedding is murdered just days before his own daughter’s nuptials. The body count rises as the detectives sift through a tangled web of upper-crust affairs and servants’ gossip. Barnaby races to solve the case in time to walk Cully down the aisle.

"Blood Wedding" opens with a backstory that, unfortunately, gives away much of the plot of the episode. We know much more about the family in which the murder has taken place than Barnaby, and I spent much of the episode waiting for him to catch up. Still, the whodunit aspect is well handled and may come as a surprise to some. In the other main subplot, Cully is getting married. Barnaby has always been a family man, but in some episodes over the years I felt the family subplots interfered with the mystery, often intrusive and not relevant. I'm happy to say that this is not the case here. There's an interesting juxtaposition between some mystery surrounding Cully's wedding and Barnaby's investigation of the murder. Overall, it's a solid episode.

"Shot at Dawn" (synopsis): A nine-decade rivalry between the Hammond and Hicks families turns violent after a dishonored soldier’s name is added to the World War I memorial in Midsomer Parva. When the Hicks patriarch is shot dead, suspicion naturally falls on the Hammonds. As the investigation proceeds, however, it appears that the two families have much more in common than they believed.

"Shot at Dawn" also opens with a backstory, but in this case it properly sets the stage for current events, giving away nothing. The episode, however, proceeds slowly, and I confess I had a hard time keeping track of who was a Hicks and who was a Hammond. In the end, I felt the writers didn't quite play fair with the viewers with respect to whodunit. An average episode, but clearly the weakest of the three in this set.

"Left for Dead" (synopsis): Already divided over the construction of a new overpass, the village of Dunstan is further shaken when psychic Lynne Fox discovers a reclusive couple brutally murdered in their home. Local boy DS Jones finds himself personally involved in the case when it turns out that his old schoolmates are keeping secrets about the death of one friend and the disappearance of another.

No backstory here, and, in contrast to many episodes of the series, the murder under investigation takes place very early on. The psychic element is a throwaway; I'm not sure why it was even included. And there are more than a few times when the police, Barnaby in particular, are not quite at the top of their game. Still, as if to keep the viewer from focusing too much on the flaws in the plot, the episode moves along quickly to its rather predictable conclusion.

While none of these three episodes are particularly bad, none are particularly great either. They seem almost routine. I think part of the reason here is that neither the victims nor the suspects are memorable in any way, nor are the murders committed in an unusual manner that might otherwise spark some interest. I'd still rather watch an episode of Midsomer Murders than most any other current television series, but I must say I was slightly disappointed in these in Set 15.

A bonus disc titled "Super Sleuths: Midsomer Murders" is included in this set. Approximately an hour long, it focuses primarily on the early episodes and includes interviews with Caroline Graham (who created the characters in a series of seven mysteries that were published between 1988 and 2004), Anthony Horowitz (who adapted many of the early books for the television series), actors from the series and other British crime novelists. It's entertaining, but with most of the scenes shown from the first episodes and little information on how the series has evolved over time, it feels dated.


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