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Reviews & Ratings for
"Midsomer Murders" Written in Blood (1998)

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19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

"Tense and well crafted mystery with horrific overtones."

Author: jamesraeburn2003 from Poole, Dorset
30 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Midsomer Worthy writers circle invites top selling author Max Jennings (John Shrapnel) to address their annual meeting. However, their chairman, the reclusive Gerald Hadleigh (Robert Swann) is very unhappy about the idea but refuses to explain why. On the night of the meeting there is clearly tension between the two men, but none of the members were prepared for the horror that was about to follow the next day when Hadleigh is discovered battered to death in his bedroom. DCI Barnaby and Sgt Troy realise that this case won't be easy because as Hadleigh was a recluse it is extremely difficult to find out anything about him. And all inquiries into his past draw a blank as he has no insurance number and the civil service whom he claimed to have worked for have never heard of him. Meanwhile, Max Jennings has disappeared and the questioning of the writers circle members proves little. These include the tyrannical Honoria Lyddiard (Anna Massey) and her sister-in-law Amy (Joanna David) but they can both vouch for the fact that they never left home at the time of the murder. A more likely suspect is smug schoolteacher Brian Clapper (David Troughton), the club's secretary, whom clearly lied about his whereabouts that night but his wife is covering up for him and there's no evidence of any friction between him and the murdered man. The case becomes even more complicated when Jennings finally turns up poisoned in his seaside home and both his alcoholic wife Selina (Una Stubbs) and his young secretary clearly know more than they are letting on.

Written In Blood (originally aired in March 1998) was the first in the series made to follow up the success of the pilot episode, The Killings At Badger's Drift (1997). Producers Betty Willingale and Brian True May re teamed both writer Anthony Horowitz and director Jeremy Silberston and assembled a marvelous supporting cast for this film including Anna Massey whose credits include appearances in such series as The Mayor Of Casterbridge and Inspector Morse. In the cinema she appeared in Michael Powell's horror masterpiece Peeping Tom (1960) and Alfred Hitchcock's excellent thriller Frenzy (1972). Una Stubbs was famous as Alf Garnett's daughter Rita in Till Death Us Do Part and has made notable guest appearances in such shows as Fawlty Towers and Heartbeat among others.

Written In Blood emerges as a tense and well crafted mystery with horrific overtones such as the killer (I won't give it away) chasing after a victim wielding a kitchen knife through an old Gothic house with thunder and lightning going on outside, which coincides with the discovery of a decaying corpse in a bedroom. These are clearly reminiscent of Psycho but they add to the film's impact without seeming like a cheap rip-off. The acting is fine all round with Massey and Stubbs of exceptional note whilst Robert Swann deserves praise as Gerald Hadleigh adding just the right touch of mysteriousness to the character. John Nettles and Daniel Casey have now firmly established themselves in the roles of Barnaby and Troy and they offer solid and charming performances. Director Jeremy Silberston who helmed The Killing's At Badger's Drift once again does excellent work as does screenwriter Anthony Horowitz who also adapted The Killings At Badger's Drift for television.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The best MM episode

Author: Vassago_F1 from Piekary Slaskie, Poland
2 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After 14 years of watching Midsomer Murders, "Written in Blood" emerges as the best episode of the entire series. It's always more difficult to create a murder story around a mentally driven killer rather then some casual reasons like money, blackmail or revenge. In this episode the killer's motive is well exposed in the end and completely understandable. Too often a mental maniac turns out to be a killer only because of his/her insanity which leaves a sour taste. Over here, despite the obvious mental issues, a real motive is there to be discovered and doesn't turn out to be a mere hoax. Also it's one of the most gruesome and dark episodes of the series, a real winner for all the murder story fans.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

I Was Astonished!

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
30 January 2016

After watching the first episode of this series and being impressed with it, I thought that it would drop off. As it turns out, this episode was as good as any television I've seen. It involves a writer's group that invites a successful novelist to speak to them. They are an odd bunch, either treating him with antagonism or aloofness. Some are downright rude. One of the men who had asked that they not invite this guy has his head bashed in sometime after the meeting. It turns out that he had had a relationship with this writer. What follows are a group of fascinating figures who interact, each with their own mystery story traits, leading to one of the most unsettling conclusions I've seen. The two investigators have to fight duplicity among all these people. Also, the writer has a secret. There are several subplots that eventually align. I love being manipulated by clever plots and twists that pull the rug from under me, and this one did that. I am so excited that there are over a hundred of these episodes to pick from. I know they can't all live up to this one, but there is excellent chemistry.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As of 2015, this is still the best Midsomer episode

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

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a true Midsomer Murders addict, and even when they're bad (Blood on the Saddle) i'll still watch and semi enjoy. I've seen them all a few times, but this is still the best of the lot.

It's so cleverly crafted, and built up, each character is given a personality, they are well drawn and beautifully acted, there isn't one weak link in the chain.

The writer's circle works so well, the stories and writing fits each character, it is so believable.

The brilliance of writer Caroline Graham, and the subsequent screenplay by Anthony Horowitz is never better realised then Written in Blood. It's complicated yet straightforward, intricate yet easy to follow.

Normally the main focus is of course Barnaby, the enigmatic John Nettles frequently steals the show, not here though, the characters and guest cast are so good, that the detectives are secondary.

The entire cast work gloriously with one another, firstly, Una Stubbs, I have never seen her play a role like this one, she adds a touch of humour to this macabre little tale, 'Swimming in her jewels.'

Bouncing Barbara, not much to say really, she caused plenty of amusement for Troy, unlike his trip to the Gay club, so funny.

The ending is truly spectacular, tense and rather terrifying, the acting is incredible, and the solution is phenomenally macabre. All plaudits go to Anna Massey and Joanna David.

It's a wonderful episode, enjoyable from start to finish, 10/10, Brilliant.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

18 years later, still a classic

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
27 November 2016

When in its prime, 'Midsomer Murders' was one of my favourites. Still tune into it now, but it has not been the same since John Nettles left and Neil Dudgeon took over.

After starting off brilliantly with "The Killings at Badgers Drift", 'Midsomer Murders' continues its classic standard with another one of its finest episodes "Written in Blood", an episode so good that it beggars belief that it was only the second episode. 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. As does Jane Wymark in another strong characterisation.

Supporting them all the way are the supporting cast, with Anna Massey and Una Stubbs being particularly exceptional, with Joanna David, David Troughton, John Shrapnel and especially Robert Swann not being close behind.

Once again, "Written in Blood" is an incredibly well-made episode, beautifully photographed with gorgeously idyllic scenery that contrasts very well with the grimness of the story. 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.

The story is incredibly compelling throughout, being as with the best 'Midsomer Murders' episodes complex, fun and disturbing. A standout scene is the climax, unforgettable in its terrifyingly macabre nature.

In conclusion, classic episode and one of the show's best. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Bloody Brilliant

Author: ummajon2003
5 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So, last episode included incest (a sexual scene too) and this episode revolved around homosexual characters and transsexual or whatever the correct term is. Caroline Graham must have enjoyed writing about abnormal private lives. I personally do not enjoy these twisted topics, but other than that, the story was written well, however disturbing.

The Barnaby home scenes were adorable as Cully brings home her pet kitten for her parents to watch over while she goes to Poland to act in her new loser boyfriend-directed, Much Ado About Nothing. Tom does not want the cat to stay, and to make matters worse...he's developed a strange rash and bout of sneezes! Joyce and Tom enjoy a candle lit dinner next to their back garden's huge window, the lovely trees and grass on view.

Seriously, I would have just watched this series for the family time situations.

Troy is still a terrible driver and irritates Barnaby endlessly.

Check out my Midsomer blog in which I highlight the beautiful exterior and interiors of the show:

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

really good

Author: blanche-2 from United States
27 September 2013

I just learned that there was a year gap between the first episode of this series and the second, which is "Written in Blood." This episode begins with a young boy named Liam shooting and killing his father. This took place in Ireland in 1955.

Cut to the present day, and the Midsomer Worthy Writer's Circle is discussing whom they should invite to speak at their next meeting. Someone suggests Max Jennings (John Shrapnel), who has written a best-seller.

The chairman of the Circle, Gerald Hadleigh (Robert Swann) is vehemently opposed to this, but he's outvoted. When Jennings gets the invitation, he isn't interested until he notices that Hadleigh is a member of the group. He decides to speak.

On the night of the meeting, Gerald takes his friend Amy (Joanna David) aside and begs her to make sure that he and Jennings aren't left alone. Amy actually leaves that evening with Jennings and her sister-in-law Honoria (Anna Massey), but then he says he forgot his gloves and has to return. Amy wants to return with him, but the domineering Honoria won't allow it, insisting that they leave.

The next day, Hadleigh is found naked and dead, beaten with a candlestick. DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and Sgt. Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) take over, but they are frustrated by the lack of knowledge anyone seems to have about Hadleigh. They believe that Jennings can give them the answers they need. He is finally located, but he's dead, too, from poisoning.

Like many if not all Midsomer Murders, the solution to the murders can be found in the past and its influence on present events. In this case, the solutions to the murders are not the same, which make them all the more interesting.

Excellent, with Cully's kitten making Barnaby sneeze throughout the episode.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Another great Midsomer Murders mystery.

Author: Paul Andrews ( from UK
4 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Midsomer Murders: Written in Blood starts in 'Darrow, Southern Ireland 1955' where a young boy named Liam (Jay Barrymore) blows his father (Murray Ewan) away with a double barrelled shotgun, it's an event which will have unforeseen consequences over 40 years later... Cut to 1998 & successful author Max Jennings (John Shrapnel) has been asked to speak at the Midsomer Worthy Writer's Circle monthly gathering, at first he isn't interested but he changes his mind when he notices the name Gerald Hadleigh (Robert Swann) as a member. Gerald is uneasy about Max's visit & confides in his friend Amy (Joanna David) that he is afraid & that Max should not be left alone with himself for any reason, the meeting appears to go well but the next morning Gerald is found dead, naked in his bedroom with his face & head smashed in with a candlestick. DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) & Sgt. Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) are on the case, their prime suspect is Max Jennings but when he turns up poisoned they have to look elsewhere...

Episode 2 from season 1, although it was broadcast almost a year later to the day after the original pilot The Killings at Badger's Drift, this Midsomer Murders mystery was directed by Jeremy Silberston & is another top mystery set in rural England. The script by Anthony Horowitz was based on the novel of the same name by Caroline Graham & like the best stories from this show it has that dark edge to it, it has a slightly disturbed outcome which involves child abuse, murder, transvestites, deceit, blackmail & taking family love just too far. I liked how the two murders in this episode seem linked but at the end turn out to be nothing of the sort & just a coincidence that two people who knew each other were killed in a short space of time while the script manages to convince you they are connected, there's not many suspects in this one as it's mostly story driven with the sinister events & motives surrounding the murders taking center stage rather than the script trying to implicate as many people for the killings as possible. As usual the clues are there so you'll have to pay attention to get the most out of it & totally understand it. There's a bit of humour in this episode too as Barnaby suffers from an allergic reaction to a cat his wife makes him sleep with. I suppose if you think about it long enough you could come up with a few holes here & there but for the most part it works very well & is a very satisfying mystery with a definite dark tone to it. I have to say though what happened to poor Brian Clapper because we never find out how things turn out for him & his 'problem' as he was dropped from the story just when he was becoming interesting.

This looks very good with plenty of English countryside on show as well as a few stately homes, this has a nice rural feel to it just as it should. I'm very glad to see they have dropped the opening credits & those awful watercolour style paintings used as backgrounds for them. Both murders happen off screen in this one. At almost two hours it takes it's time but it's engaging, absorbing & pretty intriguing. The acting is good from a good cast.

Written in Blood, you know there's an episode from season 6 called Painted in Blood & I was wondering if they make a new series perhaps they'll call one Crayoned in Blood or maybe even Sketched in Blood, is a great episode for all you armchair sleuth's out there. Definitely well worth a watch if murder mysteries are your thing.

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Great episode, but with one glaring unaddressed plot thread

Author: greenenergy-62902 from Vancouver, Canada
30 May 2017

Without spoiling anything, I would just like to say that something important and with *significant* legal implications happens regarding the drama teacher, and there is no conclusion to it. It's just forgotten about. It's a major subplot that goes nowhere. That was surprising and unsatisfying.

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2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Second episode clinched it -- won't be watching any more

Author: Hans Zaepfel from Colorado, USA
14 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite being an overall well-made who-done-it -- good acting, suspense, ample clues -- there are two things in this episode that clinched dropping the series for me. First there was an odd side thread ***spoilers ahead*** of one of the participants in the writer's group, who is a drama teacher, having a roll on the couch with one of his 15 year old students. I just didn't get the purpose of this thread and it was never resolved. The second item that caused me to not longer want to watch this series was the fact that the solution to the murder mystery involves sexual deviancy (sorry, I am not PC), just like the first episode.

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