Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files DVD Review: Probably the Greatest Current British Mystery Series

Midsomer Murders is probably the greatest British mystery series currently on the air. The show is in its 17th season, having begun on the ITV network in 1997. Actually, the proper term is 17th “series,” for the Brits call each TV season a TV series. Although Midsomer is shown on PBS in the U.S., it has never garnered much more than a cult audience, for whatever reason. Still, I get the impression that the show has its share of fans, as the DVD sets of it from Acorn Media continue to sell well. Acorn have released quite a number of Midsomer Murders sets here in the States, and the Village Case Files collection is their latest.

Village Case Files contains 16 mysteries on eight DVDs, plus some bonus material. It also kind of proves my point that these mysteries must be doing well, as all of it has been previously released. The Village Case Files contains all episodes of the eighth and ninth series of the program. The episodes are much more like TV-movies though, with an average running time of 97 minutes each. The original Acorn releases generally split each series into two sets, with one mystery per DVD. For Village Case Files, each DVD contains two full mysteries, and are presented in their UK running order.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Midsomer County is a fictional wealthy suburban English enclave. It is said to be based on the real Somerset County. The settings are absolutely gorgeous, which makes the high number of murders there all the more unsettling. The main characters are Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and his assistants Sergeant Dan Scott (John Hopkins) and Detective Constable Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). Series eight originally aired during the 2004-05 season, and the ninth in 2005-06.

Midsomer Murders was adapted for television from the Chief Inspector Barnaby book series from author Caroline Graham. The first disc of the Series 8 set contains “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” and “Dead in the Water.” Disc two features “Orchis Fatalis,” and “Bantling Boy.” Disc three has “Second Sight,” and “Hidden Depths.” The fourth and final DVD of the series contains “Sauce for the Goose,” and “Midsomer Rhapsody.” There are no bonus features on this set.

The episodes on the first disc of Series 9 are “The House in the Woods,” and “Dead Letters.” The second one has “Vixen’s Run,” and “Down Among the Dead Men.” The third DVD includes “Four Funerals and a Wedding,” and “Country Matters.” The fourth disc features “Death in Chorus,” and “Last Year’s Model.” Bonus features include a scene from the early “The Killings at Badger’s Drift” (four minutes), and text-based facts and interviews.

One of the things I like so much about Midsomer Murders is that each episode is self-contained. One does not really need to know any of the back-story to enjoy them. I only discovered the show a couple of years ago, and have really enjoyed going back and catching up on earlier mysteries. I agree with others who have said that Midsomer Murders just gets better every year. If you enjoy a good mystery, here are 16 of them, in a very reasonably-priced package.

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Greg Barbrick

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