By Kieran Kinsella
Back in the UK, Neil Dudgeon has well and truly established himself as the face of Midsomer Murders. Now fans of the show in the U.S. can get their first look at the man who replaced John Nettles (remember him?) with the release of Acorn Media’s Midsomer Murders set 21. The four stories in this four-disc set were aired in the UK just last year and have never been broadcast on U.S. TV.
Death in the Slow Lane is the first feature length story in Midsomer Murders set 21. The episode begins with John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) arriving in Britain’s most dangerous village as the heir apparent to his cousin Tom. DS Jones (Jason Hughes) isn’t exactly enamored with his new DCI who mocks his attempts to restore an old race car. Their differences are quickly forgotten when a local DJ is found dead. Local racing legend Peter Fossett is among the duo’s first batch of interviewees and as you might have guessed – Midsomer’s favorite sporting hero may have more to do with the crime than anyone could have guessed. David Warner (The Secret of Crickley Hall) plays Fossett and the other guest stars include Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey)
Dark Secrets is the second story in this box set and while it isn’t as action packed as the deceptively named Death in the Slow Lane, it’s an intriguing tale about death, rebirth, family secrets and an unfortunate horse whisperer. Guest stars include veteran actor Edward Fox (Gandhi), Abigail McKern (Leo’s daughter) and Phyllida Law (Kingdom). We also get a chance to learn a little bit more about John’s wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman) who works as a school principal.
The best episode in the set is Echoes of the Dead. The mystery begins when a young woman is found dead in her bath. Bizarrely, she is wearing a wedding dress and it soon becomes apparent that this particular death is going to be just the first of many wedding themed killings. The cast for this episode is top notch and includes Sarah Smart (Casualty 1909) and Pam Ferris (Call the Midwife). It is a fast paced, Miss Marplesque type tale that keeps you guessing right up until the final credits roll.
The last and quirkiest story in this box set is The Oblong Murders. The adventure begins when Barnaby is contacted by a man whose daughter disappears after joining a New Age cult called The Oblong Foundation. None of the group’s members are particularly inclined to talk to the police so Jones is forced to go undercover and become a member of the cult. Guest stars include soap veteran John Woodvine (Coronation Street/ Emmerdale) and Christine Bottomley (Land Girls).
Midsomer Murders set 21 is available in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The former will set you back $59.99 with the DVD $10 less. You know what you’re getting with Midsomer Murders because it’s one of those rare shows that has managed to maintain its high standards for many years – even in the absence of the show’s original leading man. I would certainly recommend this set although one or two scenes aren’t really appropriate to watch with the kids.