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'Midsomer Murders - Set 22'
(Neil Dudgeon, Jason Hughes, Laura Howard, Warren Clarke, Joanna David, Genevieve O’Reilly, James Dreyfus, 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: As you all must know by now, I just LOVE these ambling country mysteries. I just can't, for the life of me, quite figure out why so many complicated murders keep happening there ... and why anybody new would ever want to actually move there?!

Anyhoo, all that aside and the four mysteries on offer here today are: 'The Sleeper under the Hill,' where Barnaby and Jones investigate a group of Druids in Midsomer Mow; 'The Night of the Stag,' where local bootleggers come under suspicion after the disappearance of a government inspector; 'A Sacred Trust,' where vandalism and violence send shock waves through Midsomer’s cloistered nunnery; and 'A Rare Bird,' where the coppers investigate whether competition between ornithology enthusiasts led to murder.

Personally, my two favorites from this group are 'The Sleeper Under The Hill' and 'The Night of The Stag.' Both are great, well-rounded episodes of 'Midsomer Murder' and spin a yarn that is just pure-Britain ... to a fault, I guess!

My number one choice is 'The Sleeper Under The Hill,' where for the first time in many, many, oh so many years the killed body is just that right in the opening scenes! No 30 minute build up wait this time! Nope, we're straight into the murder mystery now. A disemboweled male body is found amongst the sacred stones, made to look like some form of sacrifice. But do the New Dawn Druids that were fighting the owner of the land (whose body it is) have a bloody secret to hide? But beware for the next death (as there is never one in MM's) is brutal and totally unexpected, trust me! The killer is obvious to us fans of MM from the moment they open their mouth, but the real reason to hunt for is why did they do what they set out to do?

Our two heroes are so dependable and never truly surprised by the ongoing amount of bizarre occurrences in Midsomer, which is great for my other true favorite episode in this set: 'The Night of The Stag.' This one allows the 'new' Barnaby to fluff his peacock feathers of investigation out more then he's done before as he investigates the death of a man from the Inland Revenue (Tax Inspector). From the start things are not going well for Barnaby as he drinks cider fermented by a dead body! Starring the always reliable Warren Clarke ('Dalziel & Pascoe') as a man with a secret, this one is the tale of catching "The Beast." Illegal hooch, it will knock you down in three swigs, but it seems the locals are used to it. And bringing back traditions, they end this night with a trip to the neighboring village to, well, ... you'll find out!

Next up is 'A Sacred Trust' which is a true, as they say "slow burner" for most of its time on screen. And much like the first episode, 'Sleeper ...' it also contains sexual situations. Which have not really been a part of MM mysteries before. But this new Barnaby seems to be ushering in a new age of MM! Anyway, this one is set at Midsomer Priory, home to a small group of nuns. Sadly, and violently Mother Thomas Aquinas is strangled and shortly afterwards a set of silver worth £60,000 is found to be stolen from the safe. As things progress, nobody wishes to want to blame a Nun for such a deed. But during their investigations it turns out that Sister Catherine, the most recent member of the order, is actually descended from Sir Anthony Vertue, who donated the priory to the nuns two centuries earlier. Which means that if the order is ended she will inherit the land and buildings. But, as things slowly move forward, it's what they learn about a certain act in Africa some thirty years earlier that bring the pieces together, once and for all.

In the final episode of this set, 'A Rare Bird,' bird-watcher Ralph Ford claims to have seen a blue-crested hoopoe. I know, I know, hardly party time for us layman, but for him it meant winning the year's list contest. Understandably, other members of the Midsomer-in-the-Marsh ornithological society are skeptical and angry. Which leads, unfortunately to the death of society chairman Patrick Morgan. But was Morgan mistaken for somebody else, is the big question here? Now, in keeping with the are-you-serious? element of MM's, sure Morgan was an unpopular fellow in the society, but quite why farmer George Napier benefited by his death is a mystery also - especially given that (as everyone has one) his Russian widow Nina, a former ballerina, is left crying and wondering aloud why she is now penniless!

As the new Barnaby and Jones still try getting to know each other, Jones seems to be given desk duties more than normal here. Barnaby keeps coming in and making him work leads, whereas he and the other Barnaby were always locked at the hip, so to speak. Which, if you didn't know, is probably why Jason Hughes (Ben) has decided to call it quits from the series! Yup, the old guard has all but gone now, the new guard steadily into place. So, will it be like 'New Tricks' where the end is plainly in sight, or can it carry on regardless? Only time will tell. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Midsomer Murders - Set 22' Blu ray Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

'Midsomer Murders - Set 22' DVD Barnes & Noble Purchase Link