Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Midsomer Murder Spree!

Okay, I admit it, I've been wasting a lot of time lately watching more than my fair share of television on my computer. I just love the heretofore incredible idea of having a whole season (or more) of a show at my beck and call. Who knew computers could be this much fun?

MIDSOMER MURDERS is not the best murder mystery series ever conceived, but it sure is the most picturesque. Every episode is filmed in some gorgeous area of England - indoors and out. I mean, you can overdose on the beautiful scenery and charming houses and village streets - well, you could possibly, I can't. Ever since I read my first Agatha Christie, I haven't been able to get enough of this sort of thing. I LOVE the 'illusion' of peaceful English country life. Murder most foul among the tea and scones.

Of course the people living in the Midsomer region do tend to spoil the bucolic scenery with their unpleasant behavior and propensity for murder and sex, but hey, nobody's perfect. Apparently, according to author Catherine Graham who created the Midsomer series of books, English villages are the epicenter of murder on a grand scale. Not to mention, sordid sexual entanglements.

The earlier episodes - begun in 1997 - aren't as good as those in later seasons, though the debut, THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT is pretty good, mainly because of the scenery. The story itself is typically creepy (lots of creepy doings in these villages) and the denouement is kind of icky. But the scenery...!!

I've never read the Catherine Graham books, in fact, I'd never heard of them until I began watching MIDSOMER MYSTERIES a few years ago. But I'd given up on the series. It's just lately that I've been indulging my penchant for murderous village life.

Though the motives for the vilest murders, resulting in several dead bodies in every episode, are often weak and rarely make any real sense, I still get caught up in the general creepiness. Some of these old ladies can really swing a blunt instrument.

I enjoyed many of the episodes purporting to show village life with all its nasty underpinnings. One of my favorite shows so far is from Series 4 - RING OUT YOUR DEAD. Though again the murder motivation is weak. I do like the actress - Rosalind Parr - who plays the older vamp with an eye on the hapless Sgt. Troy. She once played a vamp-combo-Nazi spy on a very enjoyable Hercule Poirot episode.

John Nettles

John Nettles, a beefy, hard-edges sort of guy who takes getting used to, plays Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby. He's a no-nonsense type who appears to have an unlimited supply of patience when it comes to his associate, naive and unobservant Sgt. Troy, played wonderfully by Daniel Casey. (In later years, the cast began to change, but I haven't come to those shows yet.)

Daniel Casey

Both these actors grew on me as I got deeper and deeper into the series. Admittedly, watching several episodes over several days, makes you look at the shows from a different slant, but on the whole, I guess I like them more now than I did then even if I could have done without the occasional forays into Chief Barnaby's home life. I mean, his wife and daughter are just not that interesting. But I suppose they are there to 'soften' Barnaby a bit.

I was surprised to find Orlando Bloom in one of the early episodes and Honor Blackman in a later one, but then the actors on each show are all pretty good if not always well cast. Still, they do look more like true villagers than glamorous show folk which is a good thing.

MIDSOMER MURDERS is available to watch online at Netflix and other sites around the web. It may also be available at your local library.


  1. Yay - MM! We are great devotees - now Tom Barnaby has 'retired' the new series continues with his cousin John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). Beautiful locations, filmed near where we live - but not all English villages harbour heinous crimes..... ;-)

  2. Oh jeez, I am so green with envy to think of you living among all that gorgeous scenery....Sigh!

    Haven't seen any of the new episodes yet. Soon, though.

    Anyone watching these shows and taking them too much to heart must think that English village life is rife with tragedies of Shakespearean proportions.;)

  3. Yvette,

    I get my _Midsomer Fix_ from the local library. In fact, I just picked up Set 18 today. I think it's the last one with John Nettles as Tom Barnaby.

    I'm waiting to see what the "New" Barnaby is like.

  4. Yvette - there are a number of villages close by that we've nicknamed with a prefix of 'Midsomer',,,,,
    I will have to post some pictures on my blog for you, one of these days!

  5. I bought the Mark Twain Stamps..
    Sounds very interesting, love Murder she wrote and Mrs Marple and Poirot. We like the same things.
    Did you see the new movie J Edgar Hoover, Pretty good.


  6. Fred: Anyway you get it, it's good. :) I'm really enjoying these shows the second time around much more than I did the first.

    I'm hoping I'll like the newer versions as well...

  7. Oh, Sue, I'm really looking forward to that. But I'll be turning green with envy. :)

    Years ago I traveled to England and made sure we visited the Cotswolds and the Lake District. Just gorgeous.

  8. Hi Yvonne, no I haven't seen the J.Edgar film yet. I'm hoping too at some point. Yes, we definitely like some of the same things. :)

  9. Some of these 'old' ladies can sure swing a blunt instrument. And she was a vamp/Nazi spy.

    Wonderful visual images.

    Another terrific review.

    I do not have Netflix. I have a set of four loaned to me and perhaps the library has these, but I must see them.

    Thanks so much.

  10. I'm not familiar with this series, Yvette - but it sound suspiciously (perhaps deliciously) like Colin Watson's Flaxborough Chronicles, the series of mysteries set in the English village of Flaxborough, a "high-spirited Gomorrah." It was Watson's reaction to Christie-like villages - his town is filled with largely amoral and highly entertaining types involved in the occasional murder.

  11. Kathy: You're welcome. :) I'm sure you'll enjoy this series. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the library has them.

  12. Les: I've never heard of these books but I'm adding the author to my list. They sound like they are definitely worth looking for.

    I think you'd enjoy MIDSOMER MURDERS too.

  13. I've seen a few of these now and then. They are a bit tepid but sometimes that's what you want. I did like the novel Badger Creek when I read that.

  14. I'm watching Midsomer also on netflix! I love the series. I really have grown to love Barnaby and his sidekick and yes the scenery is worth the watching. Have not read any of the books the series is based on though. Did not know about the new inspector Barnaby sounds interesting. Being the states though we probably won't get them for awhile.

  15. Yvette,

    The second time around? I'm still on my first, as I never watched MM on regular TV.

    The only mystery show that I've decided, at present, to watch a second time is _Foyle's War_, which is superb TV. It's an example of what TV programming could be and should be, but seldom is.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Patti: Well, since many of the murders are pretty gruesome and the Brits don't mind showing gruesome or naked bodies on a slab at the morgue, I wouldn't exactly call these shows tepid. But, they are awfully pretty to look at. Aside from the dead bodies, that is. :)

    But the motivation for some of the murders is tepid, more often than not.

    Yesterday I saw one where a psychologist had three young kids -teenagers - who killed four people for reasons inexplicable. Very strange.

  18. Peggy: Aren't they fun? Well, gruesome fun. :)

    Honestly I'd be afraid to set foot in any of these villages. Murder seems to run rampant in these enclaves of 'English-ness'.

    I honestly didn't think I'd like them this much. But I'm hooked.

  19. Fred: FOYLE'S WAR is an excellent show, don't blame you for watching it again. I enjoyed it the first time around too. I love Michael Kitchen.

    The Brits always seem to get these sorts of things right.

  20. Ever since I read my first Agatha Christie, I haven't been able to get enough of this sort of thing. I LOVE the 'illusion' of peaceful English country life. Murder most foul among the tea and scones.

    Exactly my sentiment - and this is why we watch Midsomer Murders each and every Saturday even though we remember several of the episodes :)

  21. Dorte: Yes, there's something about beautiful scenery hiding all sorts of dark secrets.

    But no matter what, 4 P.M. means tea!

  22. Back in the mid-1990s, I had read most of the classic, Golden Age mystery writers (Christie, Sayers, Marsh, etc.), but hadn't really read many contemporary mysteries. Then my mother-in-law passed along a Caroline Graham Midsommer mystery (I think it was WRITTEN IN BLOOD) and I was hooked. I avidly read all of the Midsommer books--so perhaps that's why I don't care much for the television adaptations which are so different in tone and texture. I strongly encourage you to read the books. Barnaby is a lot tougher and Troy is a completely different person.

  23. Well now, you've intrigued me, Deb. I think I will, at least, take a look. My library ought to have a few. Thanks. :)

  24. Yvette, I know this is a bit late to the party, but I didn't want to hijack a more recent non-Christie post. I was wondering if you saw a documentary recently shown on PBS (in my neck of the woods, anyway) called "The Agatha Christie Code" about some computer techies and linguistic specialists running the plots of Christie's body of work through various computer programs to analyze her use of language. They arrive at some interesting conclusions as to the secret of her success and popularity. I would love your take on it.

    While we're on Christie, do you have a favorite of hers? I'm in the mood to read Agatha, even one I might have read once upon a time, and your opinion is as good as gold.

  25. It's never too late around here, Jacqueline. :)

    I hadn't heard of this Christie documentary at all. Thanks for letting me know. Do you have a link? If not, I'll look around for it myself.

    Well, with Agatha, it depends on whether you're in the mood for a stand-alone or a Hercule Poirot or a Jane Marple. So since you buttered me up so nicely, I'll give you two of each. :)

    Stand-alones I love:



    Hercule Poirot book I love:



    Jane Marple books I love:



  26. Before I ever started (got hooked on) Downton Abbe, I found Doc Martin, Call the Midwife, Scott and Bailey, DCI Banks and The Bletchley Circle and love all of them. Then it seems they have dwindled and then I found the Midsomer Murders and Father Brown!!! I love, love, love them. They are on our PBS station here in Southern Indiana. Rhonda


Your comment will appear after I take a look.