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DVD Review: Blue Murder, Set 4

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Acorn Media, the Washington D.C.-based Anglophile’s dream distributor brings Blue Murder, Set 4 on DVD. Like the previous versions, Set 4 brings the goods, showcasing one of the most popular modern crime mysteries on the BBC.

Caroline Quentin plays DCI Jane Lewis, head of a tightly-knit squad of detectives in Manchester, England. They expertly set out to solve murders while juggling personal and professional issues. There’s good banter and interplay between the detectives, and believability to their friendship and professional relationships.

The set opens with a strong two-parter centering on the murder of a Belarusian immigrant, found stabbed to death in a parking garage. The episodes dovetail with a police inquiry by Detective Schap, one of the oft-underutilized squad room detectives. Thrown in are some corrupt PIs, and a thread of domestic abuse. The episodes also add in a good splash of DCI Lewis’s somewhat harried personal life and her husband who is living in Spain, and whose absence makes for some heightened personal drama on the home front.

One of the strongest episodes from this set is “Tooth and Claw,” with that most British of murders, a killing in the rural countryside, on a grassy field above a quaint village, albeit one economically devastated by foot and mouth disease. The idyllic countryside is never far from the gritty urban landscape of Manchester (though Manchester looks far cleaner and livelier than its hard post-industrial near past). Manchester is a great character in these episodes as well. It’s a setting different from so many other British mysteries, and the authentic accents and vernacular only add to the show.

Another good episode is “The Charming Man” about a young star-on the-rise Manchester rocker who is murdered in his posh modern condo. Lewis’s daughter is a fan of the band, giving some good mother-daughter moments. The mystery is sufficiently tangled as well, leaving a nice trail of red herrings and twists.

The set features six episodes in all, and they all maintain a high level of excellence. The plots are well thought out, nicely combining both the forensic and human aspects of crime fighting. And it’s interesting to note how many of the culprits are caught on the CCTV (closed-circuit) cameras around Manchester. The police have an advantage here that their American TV show counterparts do not.

Unlike some other BBC shows of recent vintage, Blue Murder is sharply filmed with nary a trace of the washed out prints that have plagued some other BBC shows. In fact, it looks better than a lot of American detective dramas.

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About Scott Deitche

  • Scott Deitche

    Blue Murder is an ITV, not BBC series. My mistake.