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Ghost Canyon

'Midsomer Murders - Set 21'
(Neil Dudgeon, Jane Wymark, Barry Jackson, Jason Hughes, Laura Howard, et al / 4-Disc / Not Rated / 2013 / Acorn Media)

Overview: The cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these contemporary British television mysteries. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby; and the cousin of retired DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), with Jason Hughes as now his earnest, efficient protégé, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones.

DVD Verdict: I just LOVE these ambling, country mysteries, but can't quite figure out why so many complicated murders keep happening there and why anybody new would ever move there?!

Anyway, all that aside and the four mysteries on offer here today are: 'Death in the Slow Lane,' where a classic car show becomes a crime scene; 'Dark Secrets,' where the new Barnaby and Jones investigate the suspicious death of a social services employee; 'Echoes of the Dead,' where the detectives look into a series of copycat murders; and 'The Oblong Murders,' where Jones goes undercover to investigate a local new-age cult.

Personally, my two favorites from this group could well easily be in my Top 5 favorites of Midsomer Murder episodes as a whole! My number one choice is 'Dark Secrets,' where we open in 1975 and a car crashing into a river. A tale of money-made rich folk and their skewed principles, it is 100% enjoyable by the star turn of the great Edward Fox. Starring as a doddery old man and his wife, tucked up into their big mansion, avoiding everything on the outside, not wishing to discuss the deaths in that car to anyone - not even themselves.

A slowburner at first, it is also an acting lesson given to us at every juncture by Fox. A routined hoarder of massive proportions, stacks of unread newspapers, pizza boxes and more adorn their entire living area. But when the death of a Social Worker lands directly to their door, wel, the tale begins to unravel. This episode also includes on the most original death scenes I've ever seen in the series - death by paper!

My other favorite here is 'Death In The Slow Lane,' where we begin with some genuine b/w Silverstone Grand Prix footage, before going technicolor for some "old" faux footage, incorporated into the episode to enhance the actors for what's to follow, of course. The original b/w footage is great though as I personally grew up around Silverstone and watched many a Grand Prix unfold there.

Anyway, 40 years on and (off camera for this episode) Jones was called in to see over the discovery of the winning race care with the skelton of the driver re: suicide in its seat - and lost in the private school's barn! Five years further on and that same school is having a classic car show and all the mystery comes to the fore once again - especially when another murder occurs.

As the new Barnaby and Jones try getting to know each other, Jones takes the lead in this, their first 'case' together. Barnaby is "observing," as he puts it, but slowly and surely creeps his way into the investigation with, well, observations, of course! Quite why a private school for girls would be so interested in staging and running an old classic car contest is beyond me, but with Barnaby a dog-talker to the extreme, there is plenty of wit to be found in this tale of sex, lies and videotape! These are all Widescreen Presentations (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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