Seasonal madness rife in rural England
Midsomer Murders 8.30pm, ABC
DETECTIVE Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby ( John Nettles) presides over a patch that must have the highest corpse count in England. In a typical episode, there are bodies in the library of the local squire’s manor, at the vicarage and behind the coconut shy or tombola stands at the village fete in Badger’s Drift.
Barnaby and his latest offsider, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones ( Jason Hughes), use old- fashioned policing to track the killers. The weapon of choice for Midsomer murderers is a sharpbladed instrument or shotgun. There’s no DNA matching or clever lab work, rarely even fingerprints or suspicious long blonde hairs on the tweed jackets of retired colonels. The crimes are solved via intuition — which Barnaby has in spades — and dogged plodding by Causton CID’s finest duo.
There’s an agreeable charm to all this and the scenery is lovely: rounded hills and country lanes, thatched cottages and Tudor tea shoppes.
It’s all so storybook England one wouldn’t be surprised if a stoat in a pinafore were to pop out from under a hedgerow and offer Barnaby and Jones a nice cup of tea.
But, of course, all is not as it seems and there’s an Agatha Christie- like undercurrent of evil. Barnaby has the nosiness and persistence of a Miss Marple and the cast of characters in each episode is at least as varied as any Christie village mystery. It’s a series that has always attracted terrific guest stars, too, from Maggie Steed to Richard Briers.
Tonight’s investigation launches a new season. Midsomer Murders has been in production for 10 years and shows little sign of age and sag, other than Barnaby’s ever- more- portly stomach and shorter ties, and the deepened frown lines of his wet- week of a wife, Joyce ( Jane Wymark). No
It’s always the same . . . blackmail, sexual deviancy, suicide and murder’
woman alive would put up with that corpse- botherer Barnaby except the hard done- by Joyce; he has never been known to finish a meal, show up on time for a family occasion or stay to its end.
So here we are in the superbly named Morton Fendle with a young man found gassed in his vintage car in a disused aircraft hangar.
To solve the crime, Barnaby and Jones must follow odd leads, via swimming pools and kennels. They even go undercover at a 1940s jazz and swing night at the local parish hall, during which Joyce is given a rare airing and actually gets to dance with her husband.
As usual, there are red herrings, nosy parkers and suspicious sorts lurking in the rhododendrons. ‘‘ In any Midsomer village, it’s always the same thing . . . blackmail, sexual deviancy, suicide and murder,’’ Barnaby famously muttered in an early episode. If there’s a man alive in England who can ferret out a killer, this is our chap.
Problem solver: John Nettles as DCI Barnaby