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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Midsomer Murders: Death of a Stranger is set in the Midsomer village of
Upper Marshwood & stars on the morning of a fox hunt, as the horses &
hounds race through Black Thorn Wood in pursuit of their prey an old
tramp (Peter Bayliss) is brutally beaten to death. DCI Tom Barnaby
(John Nettles) is enjoying a holiday in France with his family when he
hears the news, soon to retire Inspector Ron Pringle (James Bolam) is
given the case in Barnaby's absence & arrests a local poacher named
Billy Gurdie (Tom Smith) as his fingerprints were found on the weapon.
It seems like a open & shut case but when Barnaby & Sgt. Troy (Daniel
Casey) both return from holiday they think otherwise when Billy's
father Ben (Fred Ridgeway) is found murdered in the same wood, Barnaby
suspects the two killing are connected & are far from coincidence but
who would want to kill an old tramp who has no obvious connection to
Episode 1 from season 3 this Midsomer Murders mystery was directed by Peter Cregeen & was a fine way to kick off the third season of this usually very good series. The script by Douglas Livingstone is one of those stories which kick off with a murder rather than twenty odd minutes of exposition & scene setting, this obviously helps to draw you into the mystery straight away. There is also another murder soon after & the body count gets even higher before the end which is usually my favourite part of any Mdsomer Murders episode where all is revealed & the pieces of puzzle fall into place & are explained. The climax in Death of a Stranger has that nice dark sinister edge to it that I enjoy so much. Since these early Midsomer Murders were pretty complex at times you do need to have been paying attention & I can see why the exposition heavy dialogue might test peoples patience. Personally I think these show's are gripping, intriguing, very well thought out & have great twists in them. Death of a Stranger has strong character's & plenty of red herrings as usual although the real identity of he tramp isn't revealed until near the end so it's almost impossible to try & figure out who did it as we, the audience that is, are never given any potential motives to work with.
This is the one in which the story revolves around the contentious issue of fox hunting although it never tries to say anything moralistic about it, it's just used as a throughly English countryside tradition to provide a backdrop to the story. Of course this episode couldn't really be made these days as Tony Blair & his Government have made fox hunting for sport illegal. The hunt scenes were filmed in Thame Park in Oxfordshire & Cuddington in Bekshire was used for some of the village scenes if your interested. Death of a Stranger has a fairly high body count, there are a few dead bodies, a bit of blood, someone is found hanging & there's a bit of female bare breasted nudity as well. Looking at the cast I see the name Richard Johnson who has appeared in all sorts of things & since I'm a bit of a horror buff it wasn't unnoticed that he has gone from a horror classic like The Haunting (1963) to Italian gore films such as Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Island of Mutations (1979) & The Great Alligator (1979) to a stint on Midsomer Murders!
Death of a Stranger is another top murder mystery sure to keep all you armchair sleuth's on edge of your seat & a terrific way to open season 3, I liked it a lot & think it's well worth a watch for those with the patience.
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