Welcome to England’s most murderous county.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I think it’s nice to get an entire season’s worth of episodes in one set. In fact, not getting all of a season usually makes me offer a cautious recommendation at best. So I am as pleased as tea and crumpets to be reviewing the entire Midsomer Murders: Series 10. I’ll start by offering up a warning to those who may otherwise unintentionally double-dip: these episodes have already been released within Set 13 and Set 14, both already reviewed here at Verdict.

The eight mysteries which comprise Series 10 are spread across four discs.

* “Dance with the Dead” — What looks like a suicide quickly becomes suspicious, leading Barnaby and Jones back in time to the First World War.

* “The Animal Within” — When an American niece comes to visit her estranged uncle she’s surprised to learn not only that he’s died but that he told everyone in his life she was dead, too.

* “King’s Crystal” — Protestors who claim their pensions were stolen by a glassmaking company are among the suspects when a local businessman is killed.

* “The Axeman Cometh” — Barnaby gets to meet one of his idols, a blues musician, but his joy turns to business when the performer becomes a murder suspect.

* “Death and Dust” — No one but the bride-to-be and her fiancĂ© are happy about their upcoming nuptials, which are further dampened when it appears the the groom-to-be may have been the intended target of a murderer.

* “Picture of Innocence” — It’s a war between digital versus silver nitrate film cameras, made all the more deadly when rivals are killed. To make matters worse, someone is intent on framing Barnaby, throwing suspicion on the venerable detective.

* “They Seek Him Here” — A movie set about the French Revolution takes a turn towards a documentary when real beheadings take place.

* “Death in a Chocolate Box” — When Barnaby visits a rehabilitation village for ex-convicts he runs into an old colleague who has refused to speak to Barnaby for years. Before Barnaby can finally discover why the man is murdered.

There are several things which I find consistently occur no matter the season or episode when it comes to Midsomer Murders. One is no shortage of suspects. It’s never clear just who is responsible until the end of the episode, though we can sometimes gain clues along the way. Another is a writing style which concerns itself with getting to know not only our chief stars, DCI Barnaby (John Nettles, The Agatha Christie Hour) and DS Jones (Ben Jason Hughes, Dead Long Enough) but the rest of the pool of characters in that particular episode. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the more condensed and star-driven American crime procedural. The last is that each episode contains at least one character I would be alright seeing fall prey to some whumpage. Maybe not murder, but I would be okay watching them get maimed a little bit. Sometimes that character is a red herring, sometimes not, but they are always presenting one of humanity’s less pleasant personality traits.

There are eight different writers who penned these episodes, which normally would translate into a lack of cohesion with most series. Yet there are four directors who worked to provide that sense of cohesion, and it works. It’s clear both the writing and directing teams know and understand these characters, creating a well-crafted and executed world for the audience to immerse themselves in. Series 10 marks the second season which pairs DCI Tom Barnaby with DC Ben Jones, and as such is the first series which finds the two characters settled into their relationship with one another. By the time these episodes rolled out we could see that Ben has accepted his role as the heavy lifter (sometimes literally) of the two, doing the grunt work and handling the more physical tasks which arise during the course of their investigations. This allows Barnaby to settle fully into the role of mentor, with his trademark wit and way of looking beyond the obvious in any scenario, not only highlighting but defining his character. Series 10 begins the best of this Barnaby/Jones pairing, in my opinion.

With its picturesque location (to Americans, anyway), talented writing and direction, topped off with an engaging cast; it’s easy to recommend.

The technical specs are pretty much what are expected. In terms of the collections which have been offered before, it’s well documented the “Sets” have one episode per disc, which means there is a noticeable lack of issues such as compression artefacting and loss of focus. With Midsomer Murders: Series 10 we have two episodes per disc, which results in a bit more compression as well as the occasional soft focus, most notably during the panning shots. However, the palette holds its own, thanks in large part to the art department. The sets, costumes, and naturally photogenic locations all combine to lend a true beauty to the video transfer, presented in the industry-standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The audio is the same Dolby Digital 2.0 track we see regardless of Set or Series, so it remains consistent. In this case, that reliability translates into well-audible dialogue and background music which never overwhelm the track, but which always sound as though they are indeed supporting the rest of the audio space.

There are no special features. If you purchase Set 13 and Set 14, the previously released collections which each contain half of Series 10‘s episodes you will be treated to text bios of author Caroline Graham as well as the stars and some notable guest stars.

If you’re looking for a well-acted, well-written, and consistent murder mystery show you could do much worse than Midsomer Murders: Series 10. With the entire season’s worth of episodes gathered together, it’s the best you’ll do until the Blu-ray comes out a few years from now.

THE VERDICT

Presumed innocent.

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