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DVD Review: Midsomer Murders: Mayhem & Mystery Files

Just in time for the holidays, Acorn Media has released Midsomer Murders: Mayhem & Mystery Files, a wonderful boxed set of 15 mysteries on 15 discs.

Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) once again finds that the seemingly bucolic villages that make up Midsomer County are a hotbed of crime, murder, and well, mayhem. Ably assisted by detective Sergeant Ben Jones ( Jason Hughes), Barnaby must sort out tangled romances and webs of deceit in order to solve each crime. Always calm on the exterior, Barnaby hides a reserve that strengthens with the rising body count. Barnaby always manages to ground himself at home with the help of his wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) and daughter Cully (Laura Howard).

[L-R: Jason Hughes as Sergeant Ben Jones and John Nettles as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby]

The Mayhem & Mystery Files include:

Series 10, Part 1
“Dance with the Dead” – What at first appears an apparent suicide is quickly revealed to be a tangled love triangle – or possible quadrangle. Felicity Dean guest stars.
“The Animal Within” – An old man (Richard Johnson) tells everyone his niece (Lisa Eichhorn) died in a plane crash. When she turns up alive everyone is shocked – and the old man has gone missing.
“King’s Crystal” – A Midsomer murder at a glassware factory. John Castle and Sam Heughan guest star.
“The Axeman Cometh” – Barnaby is put in the position of suspecting his rock and roll heroes when band members start dropping like flies.

(4 discs, previously released as Set 13. Extras include: SDH Subtitles, Caroline Graham biography, and cast filmographies.)

Series 10, Part 2 
“Death and Dust” – A hit-and-run leads Barnaby to the tangled relationships of who he believes was the actual intended victim, Dr. James Kirkwood (David Yelland).
“Picture of Innocence” – Barnaby becomes a suspect in a local amateur photographer’s death and must conduct his own private investigation as the official one rapidly mounts up incriminating evidence against him.
“They Seek Him Here” – A low-budget film about the French Revolution is set at a local Midsomer manor. The set becomes the scene of a gruesome murder, a la guillotine, and Barnaby must search for the murderer.
“Death in a Chocolate Box” – A rehabilitation center for former criminals becomes the perfect setting for blackmail and murder.

(4 discs, previously released as Set 14. Extras include: SDH Subtitles, and Caroline Graham biography.)

Series 11, Part 1 
“Blood Wedding” – Cully is getting married, which might be enough for Barnaby to worry about, but a local aristocratic family’s wedding reception turns bloody and requires his full attention to sort out who the culprit may be.
“Shot at Dawn” – Midsomer’s own Hatfields and the McCoys, the Hicks and the Hammonds, let their long-standing familial feud take a murderous turn.
“Left for Dead” – Jones is pulled into the forefront of an investigation in Dunstan as his past childhood friends become central to a recent crime in Midsomer.

(3 discs, previously released as Set 15. Extras include: SDH Subtitles, Caroline Graham biography, production notes, and Cully Barnaby photo gallery.)

Series 11, Part 2 
“Midsomer Life” – Midsomer Life magazine and past secrets come to the surface in Barnaby’s latest murder investigation.
“The Magician’s Nephew” – Barnaby must sort through the members of a local cult, a magic show, an antique book, and family secrets to find a killer.
“Days of Misrule” – As Christmas approches, Barnaby and Jones must deal with problems at the local army training center which become, literally, explosive. Tim Pigott-Smith guest stars.
“Talking to the Dead” – Are the neighboring woods of Monks Barton haunted, as psychic Cyrus LeVanu (Jeroen Krabbé) insists, or should a gang of antique thieves be Barnaby’s main concern?

(4 discs, previously released as Set 16, Extras include: SDH Subtitles, episode commentary by John Nettles and Jane Wymark on “The Magician’s Nephew,” and production notes.)

Midsomer Murders is always strongest in its human interactions. Barnaby tries to maintain a respectful distance from both suspects and victim’s families, but his proximity to his neighbors is also always a factor and a help in his solving of a case. The beautiful settings and depictions of British village life is at once both attractive and eerie, considering the high crime levels in Midsomer County. All of the acting in the series is top-notch, but it is Nettles who makes the show and holds audience interest.

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