Case Number 18296: Small Claims Court

MIDSOMER MURDERS: SET 14

Acorn Media // 2007 // 368 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // February 10th, 2010

The Charge

"Causton CID."
"I'd never have guessed."
"Well, that'll be the impregnable disguise."
-- dialogue between two suits, detectives Tom Barnaby and Ben Jones, and a witness

The Case

Since British audiences have witnessed murders regularly in Midsomer County since 1997, there probably isn't anyone in the county -- or anyone with a British TV license -- who doesn't recognize Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles, Bergerac). Nettles' Barnaby isn't as colorful as food-obsessed Henry Crabbe, cranky Jack Frost, devious antiques dealer Lovejoy, or even wisecracking teachers Trevor Chaplin and Jill Swinburne, to name just a few popular British TV sleuths I've passed judgment on recently. Still, his quiet, patient investigations make Midsomer Murders consistently entertaining.

Digital Spy wrote that Nettles will be retiring in 2011 on ITV, but there are still a few more sets of his cases to be released here before that last episode -- at least with Nettles -- runs.

Midsomer Murders: Set 14 includes four 92-minute mysteries, each on its own disc:

* "Death and Dust"
The death comes from the hit-and-run murder of a doctor (who was driving a colleague's car). The dust comes from Inspector Barnaby's patio project. Conveniently, just about everyone involved is a member of the Barnabys' rambling club.

* "Picture of Innocence"
Barnaby and his wife Joyce (Jane Wymark, Poldark) have "an eventful evening" at a photo exhibit, thanks to a flashbulb duel between rivals and the discovery of a digitally altered photo of Barnaby smooching with another woman. When photographers start turning up dead, Barnaby is a suspect. He's under house arrest, but he gets around.

* "They Seek Him Here"
Even in bloodsoaked Midsomer, seeing someone guillotined is a rare event, so the locals are excited by the shooting of a remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Soon, however, the sight of headless bodies -- real ones -- could be a regular event.

* "Death in a Chocolate Box"
Barnaby sees an old friend, but the old friend doesn't want to see Barnaby. Soon, the old friend is found dead beside his crashed car, but the injuries weren't from the crash. Meanwhile, Joyce fears daughter Cully wants to emigrate.

Set 14 seems a bit lighter than Set 13, the last one I reviewed, with two episodes -- "Picture of Innocence" and "They Seek Him Here" -- going especially heavy on the light stuff. In "Picture," Barnaby's "house arrest" in which he's almost never at home, an irritant to the detective nominally handling the case, gives John Nettles a chance to do more than throw a few droll lines into questioning. Watching him sneak around on a case, do a slow burn as he sits down to a gourmet dinner meant for an imposter, and deal with questions from Joyce about a past romance is fun. The movie set setting of "Seek," with its comic riffs on filmmaking, leads to several scene-stealing guest turns. As with Set 13, the casting directors have done their homework, populating Midsomer with all sorts of offbeat characters, acted well. You'll see an occasional familiar face, like Stephanie Cole (Doc Martin) or Chris Barrie (Red Dwarf), but even the ones you've never heard of excel.

The 1.78:1 anamorphic picture and the sound are good, if not showy.

The only extra here is a text bio of Caroline Graham, who wrote the novels that introduced Inspector Barnaby.

This set of Midsomer Murders is a good blend of light and moody stories that'll appeal to anyone who likes a police procedural done with British style.

The Verdict

Not guilty. From here, it looks like Nettles will quit on top.

Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)

Running Time: 368 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bio

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0118401/combined

* Digital Spy
http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/a198418/john-nettles-plans-low-key-murders-exit.html?imdb