Written by Anthony Horowitz and Douglas Watkinson based on the novels by Caroline Graham
Directed by Jeremy Silberston and Moira Armstrong
Starring John Nettles, Daniel Casey, Jane Wymark, Laura Howard
- Four first season episodes
- Cast biographies
- Caroline Graham biography sand booklist
- Map of Midsomer County
Released by: Acorn Media.
My Advice: Catch it on cable.
Midsomer County in the heart of the English countryside is filled with picturesque vistas, quaint villages, and if you believe the episodes in this series, a great deal of dead bodies. Dastardly crimes are being committed–everything from a man beheaded in his own home, to women strangled with old school ties, to a local landowner shot in the chest during a dispute with two tribes of Travelers to an old manor house with disturbing apparitions causing a widow to lose her mind. If this were the first half of the 20th Century, there would be an aristocratic sleuth or little old busybody poking around the crime scene. But since this is the new millennium, the local constabulary is on the case and on the ball. The men to sort through all the lies, secrets, and suspects are Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby (Horowitz) and his young assistant Detective Sergeant Troy (Casey). They probe around the hedgerows and village commons finding the ugly emotions hidden among the scenic surroundings.
[ad#longpost]We all enjoy a bit of nostalgia now and again. Theme parks, cable networks, even whole industries work to satisfy that need. The village mystery novel is a particularly British bit of literary nostalgia. You recognize the format: a country village with a community of odd characters with dirty little secrets, the sleuth barges in and manages to determine whodunit through detection and insight all in a lighter tone than your average mystery. Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers are considered the masters of the genre, but Caroline Graham’s work and the TV series inspired by that work brings the genre up to date. Besides the cottage dwellers and country farmers, Barnaby and Troy deal with homosexuality, tobacco companies, and Gypsies in RVs and mobile homes. I doubt Miss Marple could deal with these incursions of the modern world. It’s really the best of both worlds.
The acting is good as usual for a British TV series. Both Nettles and Casey play their characters within the standard stereotype (the near-prescient detective and his bumbling assistant) but not succumbing to stereotype. The characters act like trained professionals, which they are. And the series is lovely to look at, taking advantage of the rural setting. Even if it isn’t a tour de force like Sherlock Holmes, it’s definitely a cut above Murder, She Wrote.
It’s a shame the special features don’t equal the quality of the show. All we have is some meager biographies of the cast and author whose work the series is based on along with a map of the area featured in the show. The map is a nice touch, but it would have been nicer to have the names of the episodes next to the towns that involved them. Also, we could have used some notes on the geographical location of this area in relation to London or other major cities to give viewers a sense of where they are. Because of this, Midsomer Murders is worth watching, but not the bother of renting it.