Mystery Books News is pleased to publish a review of a "Mystery on TV", a television series or movie featuring either a detective, amateur sleuth, or private investigator, or a mystery, suspense, or crime drama with an ensemble cast, that is now available on DVD.
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Midsomer Murders: Set 14
Original air date(s): May and June 2007, August 2007.
DVD release date: 02/23/2010.
Recurring characters: 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).
Rating: Not Rated (but comparable to TV-PG).
Running time: 400 minutes
Episodes in this series are based on characters created by Caroline Graham.
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Review: The four episodes in Set 14 of Midsomer Murders are those that originally aired on ITV in the UK during the spring and summer of 2007, star John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby and Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones, and chronologically follow those of Set 13 (previously reviewed).
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"Death and Dust" (May 2007)
Review: This is one of the few episodes that takes place, at least in part, outside of Midsomer County. The final half hour or so are set in Wales, with the camera providing sweeping vistas of the rugged countryside. The plotline is not overly complicated, though it does seem to jump around a bit. The ending, with Barnaby in a police helicopter, is really quite thrilling.
Jones, who typically seems to be a rather passive participant in these investigations, has a bit more to do than usual in this episode. But, as if to illustrate what Barnaby thinks of his partner, when Jones is away Barnaby asks another officer if she'd be willing to take his place in the office during an interrogation. She enthusiastically agrees ... until Barnaby tells her he takes his coffee black, no sugar.
On the home front, this episode also has Barnaby seeming to take a liking to his daughter's new boyfriend, even inviting him out to the pub for a drink. He seems to realize that their relationship may be serious.
Synopsis (from the studio): David Mostyn is shocked to find his mother Delyth in bed with Dr James Kirkwood, senior partner in the Midsomer Market surgery. Delyth, a beautiful divorcee, is delighted when James uses the occasion to propose to her.
Her daughter Megan, James' practice manager, is equally outraged, especially when Delyth tells her they are planning to sell up and travel the world. James also has the difficult task of telling Dorothy Hutton, his late wife's mother, who is still grieving.
James asks his partner Alan Delaney to check on Dorothy later, lending him his brand new Range Rover for the journey. But when Alan has to leave the car during a storm, a pick-up truck drives into him at speed and kills him. Barnaby and Jones dig into Alan's past and discover that James once accused him of stealing £30,000 from the practice. But it was put down to clerical error and the two doctors made up.
Delyth puts her cottage up for sale as Barnaby brings in computer expert WPC Gail Stephens to trace the missing money. The detectives realize James may have been the real target and race to the surgery just in time to see a bucket of metal bolts thrown off scaffolding, narrowly missing the doctor's head.
During a walk with the Midsomer Ramblers, Dorothy confides her suspicions about Megan's lavish lifestyle. She is also worried that Alan helped hasten her daughter's death and James killed him to stop the truth coming out. Meanwhile David points the finger at Clifford Rawnsley, a pig farmer infatuated with Delyth.
The detectives travel to Snowdonia to see Bryn Williams, Delyth's friend and co-owner with her of Marchogwr Allt, a disused slate waste pile. They also visit her ex, Huw, a once violent man who recently suffered a stroke. He tells them David also called by, asking him for £250,000 for a business venture.
On the way back, WPC Stephens phones. Computer records show Megan used the money to buy cane furniture for David's shop and he shared the proceeds by buying her a sports car. But did they kill Alan or try to kill James?
As the Midsomer Ramblers gather in Snowdonia, Jones joins the trek to protect James from potential killers while Barnaby questions David about his financial misdeeds. But something David says makes Barnaby realize James is at risk from a person they never would have suspected &ldots; just as Jones realizes the doctor has disappeared from the mountain path.
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"A Picture of Innocence" (June 2007)
Review: There are numerous twists and turns in this murder mystery plot that keep it fresh and exciting.
The fun starts when a photo of Barnaby is displayed at a photography exhibition that shows him kissing a woman, who clearly isn't his wife. It's clearly been digitally created, but that's only the first of several instances where Barnaby seems to be in compromising situations. It's quite a treat to see the typically supremely confident Barnaby on the defensive here. It's also interesting to see digital photographers depicted as hoodlums, though it does border on the silly at times.
Overall quite clever, this is probably the best of the four episodes in this set.
Synopsis (from the studio): Rivalry between traditional film photographers and digital camera fans in the village of Luxton Deeping reaches fever pitch at the annual photographic society exhibition when snapper Steve Bright threatens black and white film enthusiast Lionel Bell.
During the private viewing, Joyce is shocked to see a print on the wall showing Barnaby caught in a passionate embrace with another woman -- Marion Bell, Lionel's wife, who left him to live in Spain.
Photographer Headley Madrigal says the image has been digitally manipulated -- its two shots put together. Joyce assumes it's a criminal getting revenge, then Barnaby admits he had a brief relationship with Marion 30 years ago.
Lionel is photographing his favorite oak trees in Luxton Wood when he is strangled with the cord from his light meter. A memory card from a digital camera is found in his mouth.
Police discover Lionel shared a bottle of wine with a visitor the night before he died, but according to his diary it was DCI Barnaby. Then the detective's fingerprints are found on a wine glass at Lionel's home.
Barnaby realizes someone must have taken his wine glass from the exhibition to frame him but he is taken off the investigation and replaced by irritating bureaucrat Martin Spellman, who spends most of his time planning his forthcoming wedding.
The memory card reveals glamour shots of a blonde woman. Before Jones can question Steve Bright about it, he too is strangled. This time, a roll of black and white film is found in his mouth containing more images of the mystery woman.
Behind Spellman's back, Barnaby visits Lionel's daughter Philomena, who admits her mother returned to England recently. Then Headley's son Seb invites him to his dark room at night offering information about the blonde woman. He claims Bright held sessions at his studio with glamour models, plus Lionel and other middle-aged men.
Jones finally discovers who the woman is -- but her identity comes as a complete shock. Then Seb invites Spellman to his darkroom for more revelations. With the evidence mounting against him, will Barnaby be able to clear his name?
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"They Seek Him Here" (August 2007)
Review: Here's another exciting episode, set on the grounds of an estate that is being used as the backdrop for the film production of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
As soon as the guillotine is shown in the opening segment, you just know that it will be used as a murder weapon at some point. The plot has quite a bit of credible misdirection to it, though for the most part it's presented and discarded quite quickly, leaving viewers with little doubt as to whodunit and why well before Barnaby does. That he leaves Jones in the dark in the end is a little disappointing, and again illustrates the disdain he seems to show for him throughout many of these episodes.
Synopsis (from the studio): A new version of The Scarlet Pimpernel is being shot in Midsomer Magna, but the atmosphere off the set rivals the battles of the film. Producer Jack Braxton and director Nick Cheyney hate each other, manor house owners Terence and Diane Charteris are broke and their marriage is on the rocks, while there's a painful history between their daughter Leonie and Cheyney.
DCI Barnaby and DS Jones get interested in events when they tail known thief George Ince to a meeting at the manor with Jed Norris, another ex-con. They are amazed to discover Norris is employed there as a security guard.
Meanwhile Joyce arrives with a group of residents from The Cedars care home who have been drafted in as cheap extras. Among them is Gwen Morrison, an old friend of Cheyney's who now runs a charity shop with Leonie.
Filming is disrupted when Raymond Clandillon, a larger-than-life gay alcoholic actor arrives, begging for a role. Cheyney casts him as an extra, much to the amusement of Neville Hayward, the brother of Gwen's late husband Ted. At one point, Raymond, Neville, Gwen and Ted were local actors known as the Four Musketeers, but after Ted died, Neville's friendship with Raymond soured.
Leonie interrupts dinner at Magna Manor to warn Cheyney to stay away from her son Josh. Diane also threatens him, as does Danny, Leonie's partner. Cheyney laughs it off but, later that night, Jed finds him beheaded by the guillotine, a film prop.
Braxton and Diane have alibis after they admit spending the night together, while Danny reveals that Josh is Cheyney's son, the result of a drunken night. And according to Neville, Raymond blames Cheyney for ruining his career, while Leonie suggests her father will stop at nothing to make money from Magna Manor.
With such a wide array of suspects to choose from, Barnaby is sure young Josh is central to the case. Then Bullard reveals Cheyney was drugged with morphine before he was beheaded.
As the complicated relationships of the Four Musketeers start to emerge, there is another beheading. But who is settling old scores and why?
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"Death in a Chocolate Box" (August 2007)
Review: By far the weakest episode of the set, the plot takes a long time to get going and even then really never ramps up much the suspense level.
The most interesting element of the story is a room-sized camera obscura that is located at the center of a village on the grounds of an ancient estate. Unfortunately, the only significant relationship of this fascinating device to the mystery is the use of its hand crank as a murder weapon. It would seem that a much more interesting story could have been written here.
Part of the reason this episode might seem slow is that quite a bit of screen time is devoted to Barnaby's home life. Rather than being an integral part of the story, as it often it, it just seems like filler here, adding little value.
Synopsis (from the studio): Reformed criminal Ronnie Tyler prepares to leave Midsomer Holm, a tranquil village and halfway house founded by Lord Holm and detective-turned-psychotherapist Professor Gina Colby. At the heart of the village is an historic camera obscura.
New arrival Eddie Marston takes Ronnie's place, which DCI Barnaby is uneasy about. Meanwhile Gina's husband Jack, a former DS at Causton, is having trouble sleeping, haunted by the past.
Jack and Barnaby were close, but Jack can't open up to his old colleague now. He left the force under a cloud after Lord Holm was jailed for killing his unfaithful wife Maria with the handle from the camera obscura. Maria's conquests included the Friday Nighters -- policemen who had sex with her in the cells while Jack was on duty.
After the scandal, Gina had resigned and retrained as a counsellor, and had visited Lord Holm in prison. When he got early release, he invited her to expand her work with offenders. Jack, now a probation officer, recommended Eddie for Midsomer Holm, even though he was the cop who got him jailed.
Cully and Simon arrive for a surprise visit, but Barnaby is called away when Jack's Land Rover is found wrecked in a ditch, with Jack dead. Bullard says Jack was murdered with a heavy iron bar.
The detectives learn that Jack was upset by financial problems at Midsomer Holm and his mood changed suddenly a month ago. Meanwhile Eddie Marston has disappeared.
Postman Lionel Poulter, one of the Friday Nighters, intercepts an envelope sent by Jack to Barnaby, containing newspaper cuttings and a threatening note. He phones Eddie but is found by Barnaby and Jones and forced to admit that he's been blackmailing Jack since meeting Eddie in jail. But what was Jack so anxious to hide?
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Midsomer Murders continues to be one of the most reliable and consistent series for fans of well-written and filmed crime dramas; it is enthusiastically recommended.
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Formats and/or viewing options:
Purchase Midsomer Murders: Set 14 on DVD
Reviewed on 03/09/2010 by Mr. E., television and film critic for Mystery Books News
Review Copyright © 2010— Omnimystery — All Rights Reserved
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