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DVD Review: Midsomer Murders: Set 20

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Acorn Media has released another wonderful set of Midsomer Murders. Midsomer Murders: Set 20 includes four full-length mysteries, “Master Class,” “The Noble Art,” “Not in My Backyard,” and “Fit for Murder.”

Available to U.S. audiences for the first time, Set 20 is the latest Midsomer Murders release from Acorn Media, which has previously released Sets 1-19, as well as three special collector’s sets featuring assorted episodes: The Early Cases Collection, Barnaby’s Casebook, and Village Case Files. The Set 20 DVD set contains four discs, with SDH subtitles and an approximate total running time of 360 minutes. The episodes are in color, stereo, and widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

Set 20 features the last cases of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby (John Nettles), who has been investigating the mayhem and murder that has lurked behind the well-trimmed hedges and rural villages of Midsomer since 1997. But crime-ridden Midsomer (and viewers) need not fear, because although Barnaby has more than earned his well-deserved retirement, he is not leaving its residents without protection. His cousin, DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) is taking over the top cop position, with Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) still on hand.

Barnaby’s last four episodes are as stacked high with dead bodies and small-village intrigue as ever. But the always stoic Barnaby shows hints of his weariness of the murderous goings-on. His disatisfaction comes to a head in the final episode in the set, “Fit for Murder,” when after having a “relaxing” spa weekend with his wife cut short by the usual multiple murders, Barnaby comes to a momentous decision about his future.

It is in this episode that Neil Dudgeon makes his first appearance as DCI John Barnaby, and that viewers must bid farewell to John Nettles. Also leaving Midsomer (and the series) are Barnaby’s ever-patient wife Joyce (Jane Wymark), his daughter Cully (Laura Howard), and DC Stephens (Kirsty Dillon). If saying goodbye to Nettles & Co. isn’t emotional enough, the fourth disc with “Fit for Murder” also includes two special bonus features – a photo gallery, “Barnaby Through the Years,” and an essay, “Saying Goodbye to Barnaby.” Both items offer excellent opportunities to revisit Midsomer and its popular chief detective inspector.

What has always been so appealing about Midsomer Murders is the mixture of the beautiful, bucolic scenery of the assorted villages (59 in all!) located in Midsomer County and brutal murders that just keep happening and happening. Barnaby’s patient, diligent approach to solving a crime (or in most instances, multiple crimes) help him navigate the village factions and their various, sometimes eccentric interests. In the course of the four episodes in Set 20 Barnaby finds himself at a highly competitive school of music (“Master Class”), among boxing enthusiasts (“The Noble Art”), trying to unravel a land development scam (“Not in My Backyard”), and at a fancy spa (“Fit for Murder”), suspecting his neighbors, played by some great British actors, including James Fox, Frances Barber, Michelle Fairley, and Phil Daniels.

As much as fans may lament the departure of John Nettles, Midsomer Murders is still in production in the U.K., and looks to be running for quite some time. Although he will be sorely missed, Set 20 is a fitting farewell and tribute to Nettles’s reign in Midsomer, and thankfully his many episodes as DCI Barnaby are available to be viewed and enjoyed over and over again.

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