Reviews & Ratings for
"Midsomer Murders" Death of a Hollow Man (1998)

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:


Author: evian_man from United Arab Emirates
18 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a huge fan of the Midsomer Murders series, I was very disappointed with this particular episode. As usual, the characters are excellent - vibrant, well developed, a diverse mix of the eccentricities of country-folk, but the time spent on them allows the actual plot to suffer tremendously.

The initial murder is forgotten for the majority of the episode, to the point that it took me by surprise to see it being investigated again after more than an hour into the show. I'd actually forgotten it had taken place, and even then the segue to refocusing on it was vague and tenuous. The eventual motive for both the murders remains murky, as there was no clue throughout the nearly 2 hours of the episode that even hinted at it, let alone allowed the viewers the opportunity to deduce it for themselves. All we have to go on is a hasty explanation offered by Inspector Barnaby himself after he has already identified the murderer, referring to arrangements, relationships and motives that never surfaced at any point of the investigation - even now I'm not too sure what it was all about.

In my opinion, a murder mystery needs to give the viewer the opportunity to solve the crime themselves during the course of the show, or at least keep changing their guesses as new clues are revealed. This one did not. In fact, precious few clues were revealed at all. It was as though the red herrings that are part and parcel of a typical Midsomer Murders episode (and usually thoroughly enjoyed) took center stage, while the murders themselves became a trivial afterthought.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Death of an actor

Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
28 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Before the credits have begun we see somebody being murdered followed by a body being dumped in a river. The body is later discovered by anglers and Barnaby and Troy are soon on the case. It is soon established that the victim, Agnes Grey, had advanced cancer so it seems odd that somebody would go to the trouble of murdering her. Meanwhile the local amateur dramatic society, led by the abrasive Harold Winstanley is putting on a performance of Amadeus in which Joyce Barnaby is acting; as is Esslyn Carmichael; cousin of the murdered woman. During the opening night an 'accident' leaves one of the cast dead on stage! There are plenty of suspects as the dead man was not popular due to his bullying nature.

After watching more recent series of Midsomer Murders it was interesting to go back to the first series; of course we have the large cast of larger than life characters who could be the killer or the next victim. It takes a while before the second death comes but when it does it is quite shocking… although that might be because the sight of a straight razor has me cringing before it gets near anybody's throat! The cast put on a fine performance; including Bernard Hepton and Nicholas Le Prevost as Winstanley and Esslyn… two rather unpleasant characters and always excellent Janine Duvitski who played the put upon stage manager. The story was entertaining although the original murder is forgotten for much of the time; especially after the on stage death. One flaw though was the murder weapon; it seems unlikely that a drama would use a real razor even if it was meant to have the blade taped over… still it is Midsomer not the real world so such details can be excused!

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Takes it's time to get going, but some great performances nonetheless,

Author: Paul Evans from Swansea, United Kingdom
23 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A pretty good start, Agnes Gray has lit a candle and is in prayer underneath a figure of the Virgin Mary, but she is bludgeoned to death with a crow bar, and later discovered floating in a river.

We meet the production company members about to give a performance of Amadeus. It's figurehead is rather bad tempered and theatrical Howard Winstanley, who has definite delusions of grandeur. We meet star of the show Esslyn Carmichael, young actor Nico (who is strangely cute) and its other members, one of which is Joyce Barnaby. It's opening Night and a mishap with a prop leads to the death of one of the stars, but can Barnaby and Troy solve the case.

I've seen this episode many times over the years and naturally I understand and enjoy it. I can remember at the time thinking 'what was that all about.' The killing at the very start seems to have absolutely no link, it's quite a thin explanation at the end. The Killings at Badger's drift and Written in Blood had been so slick and brilliant, this one just seemed a wee bit clunky, a little botched together, that said there are some excellent characterisations.

I utterly love Bernard Hepton, what an utterly magical actor he is, he totally steals the show, his constant mentions of Sir John and his scenes with poor Doris are wonderful. Again I'll admit i'm an adoring fan of Angela Pleasence she is wonderfully cooky in it, the outfit she wears on opening night is hilarious. A great finale makes up for an almost good episode. 7/10 What's happened to Ed Waters?

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

a most tenuous episode

Author: kdreher2
6 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the most tenuous episode of all the Midsomer Murders I have viewed. I worked so hard to figure out what was going on! I had to watch it 3 times, and at an hour and 42 minutes, that's a lot of time. It was such a challenge to excavate the fact that the first victim, Agnes and the perpetrator were in cahoots with exporting / importing stolen (?) religious artifacts--and I don't even know if that is true.

I felt like an anthropologist trying to find the right pieces to a shattered pot! As one reviewer said the first murder is all but forgotten and, when the inspectors finally get to it, the conclusion is nebulous.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:


Author: blanche-2 from United States
30 October 2012

I love "Midsomer Murders," especially the character of Barnaby and his family, and this episode, "Death of a Hollow Man" has my favorite of his associates, Sgt. Troy (Daniel Casey).

However, I couldn't follow this one. I thought it was just me until I read the other reviews. The first murder is in the first scene, a person praying who is hit over the head. This apparently was Agnes. That really confused me because I thought it was a man.

Then Agnes' cousin is killed during a production of Amadeus. Barnaby sees a connection - though Agnes had terminal cancer, the murderer couldn't wait.

As far as the motive, I don't actually know what it was except that it had something to do with religious artifacts and Agnes, as it turns out, left a fortune.

Loved seeing the bits of Amadeus, and I liked the acting. I just wish I knew what it was all about. The murder of Agnes isn't mentioned again until the very end of the episode - for the rest of the film, it's forgotten.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Theater it Is !

Author: ummajon2003
6 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I agree with the other posts about the tame and slow plot. I rather found that a relief though, instead of sitting through so many absurd and graphic murders.

There is the razor blade incident which is apparently Joyce's first time as witness to death, as she takes it very hard. It will be one of many that she is witness to as we know, she gets quite used to dead bodies and murderers in the coming seasons.

The Catholic church features again, this time in a polite and quiet manner which was again refreshing.

Cully tells Troy (on their first meeting no less), "this is not the theater" at the start of the play which I found confusing. Was she already being so pretentious?

This episode finds Troy actually being praised for his input into the case rather than mocked, another nice difference!

A smaller story line about a gay couple, a bit of skin shown, an adulterous affair, greed, pride, theft, and the murders, of course, round out this episode. Ignore all that and you've got the wholesome justice-fighting and cozy warmth of Barnaby's home life to make it worth the view.

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

"It was like humping a tranquilised cart horse." Classic first season Midsomer Murders mystery.

Author: Paul Andrews ( from UK
5 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Midsomer Murders: Death of a Hollow Man starts as Agnes Gray (Denyse Alexander) is brutally murdered with a crow bar. Jump forward a week or so & her body is found in a pond, DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) & Sgt. Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) are on the case. Meanwhile in Causton a theatrical production of Amadeus is being staged by bad tempered elderly director Harold Winstanley (Bernard Hepton) with locals used as the cast & crew. One such local on the cast is Barnaby's wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) who has a small role, it's the opening night & Tom along with their daughter Cully (Laura Howard) are in the audience. Esslyn Carmichael (Nicholas Le Prevost) is the star & he is due to act out a suicide on stage by running a doctored straight razor across his throat, however someone switches the safe razor for a real one & Esslyn dies on stage from a self inflicted slit throat. Barnaby gets the case & since Esslyn was a cousin of Agnes he suspects a link & there are no shortage of suspects...

Episode 3 from season 1 this Midsmer Murders mystery was directed by Jeremy Silberton & is another classic episode when the show had an edge almost as sharp as the razor Esslyn uses to cut his own throat. The script by Caroline Graham based on her own novel of the same name serves up a typically absorbing & intriguing plot that is yet another dark & complex murder mystery with a mature tone, I must admit I loved the clever method used here when the murderer actually makes Esslyn kill himself with the razor blade on stage. I think it's a great idea & a great method for murder, I did feel the murder of Agnes was overlooked & almost ignored to some extent as it mostly concentrates on Esslyn. As usual the character's are very good, there are some nice red herrings & a good helping of suspects for armchair detectives to shift through. Things come together nicely at the end with a neat explanation & a suitably elaborate motive. My only real problem is the length as I think at almost 2 hours it can drag a little in places.

This episode was shot mostly in & around Buckinghamshire this looks nice enough even though there isn't much scenery on show. It's well made with good production values as this is a prime time series over here in the UK. There's nothing graphic in this episode apart from a bit of bad language as both murders are tastefully done. The acting is strong in this episode with everyone doing a fine job.

Death of a Hollow Man is a great Midsomer Murders mystery, it has just about everything you want from an episode except maybe the traditional English countryside setting which the show is famous for. Well worth a watch for mystery fans.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

After two exceptional previous episodes, "Death of a Hollow Man" was disappointing

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
30 November 2016

"The Killings at Badgers Drift" couldn't have been a more perfect beginning to a great (in its prime that is) show. "Written in Blood" continued this exceptional standard, and both still rank among the best 'Midsomer Murders' episodes.

"Death of a Hollow Man" by all means is not a bad episode, it's fun and intriguing enough and it's decent. It's just that it is a quite big step down from the previous two episodes, and 'Midsomer Murders' has shown many times that it can do episodes more than decent. There have been worse episodes of course, but anybody expecting "Death of a Hollow Man" to be as good as "The Killings at Badgers Drift" and "Written in Blood" will be disappointed.

Most of the problems, as has been said already in previous reviews (of which there's not much more to add to what has been written about the episode's strengths and flaws) are story-related. After starting the episode in a very atmospheric fashion, it was a shame that the first murder was completely neglected for most of the episode that it comes as a shock to the viewer when reminded quite suddenly very close to the end that there was one at all. It was almost as if it had been completely forgotten about when writing the script/story and then suddenly remembered.

Some of the pacing lacks tightness, making the episode drag in places. Also, the final solution was very underwhelming, it was thinly sketched, underdeveloped, rushed and the motive is not just the most vague one of the first season but also high up on the list of the most vague motives of the whole of 'Midsomer Murders', got who it was but everything else was a confusing head-scratcher.

However, "Death of a Hollow Man" is as ever a beautifully made episode, with to die for scenery, the idyllic look of it contrasting very well with the story's grimness, and quaint and atmospheric photography. The music fits perfectly, and the theme tune one of the most memorable and instantly recognisable of the genre. The script is smart, thought-provoking and suitably grim, with even some nice humour.

As aforementioned, the story is less than perfect in execution but it is mostly intriguing and fun with some great references to 'Amadeus', and kept afloat by the colourful characters.

John Nettles is superb as Barnaby, giving the role humour, intelligence and methodical thoughtfulness. Daniel Casey is a great contrasting partner as Troy, the two work wonders together and it was nice to see Troy congratulated. As does Jane Wymark in another strong characterisation. The supporting cast do very well, especially Bernard Hepton, who relishes his role with glee. Angela Pleasance and Nicholas LePrevost also register strongly.

In conclusion, disappointing but still decent. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

All the Elements There, but a Bit Confusing

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
1 February 2016

The episode starts the usual exciting way with a murder. An elderly lady is genuflecting in front of a Madonna and child statue, when someone comes up from behind and stabs her. Now we cut to a theatre which is ruled over by a wicked an who abuses not just the people on stage, but apparently most who come into his life. The actors are putting on a performance of Amadeus. Barnaby's wife has a non-speaking part in it. We get to meet a whole group of people. A rather plain, timid stage manager and the guy who has a thing for her. A couple of gay men who run a bookstore. An insufferable, but quite talented actor who has the role of Salieri. He is married to a tart who is fooling around with someone else. He also has some connection to the murder victim. In a bizarre scene that sets everything in motion, he dies when someone who removes the protective tape from a straight razor prop. He accidentally cuts his own throat (I have to admit that this is just a bit far-fetched, but it is the significant event. As is usually the case, Barnaby and Troy must deal with a literal cast of characters. The question one asks from the beginning. We find out early that she has been donating enormous sums of money to animal causes. This one is a bit of a step down, but it's still pretty entertaining.

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