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"Midsomer Murders" Written in Blood (1998)

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15 out of 15 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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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The best MM episode

10/10
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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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Another great Midsomer Murders mystery.

7/10
Author: Paul Andrews (poolandrews@hotmail.com) 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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

really good

8/10
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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too forced

5/10
Author: blahzm from United States
22 December 2013

When the murder was finally pieced together, I found it all to be too odd and unrealistic to appreciate this episode. The intentions of all the characters involved seemed too bizarre and outlandish. It seemed that the ending was only meant to answer the complexities of the case. It's as if you're forcing wrong pieces of the puzzles to conform to the right piece.

The acting was relatively good. I don't know if this is a common quality of British acting but I have to say that the climatic scenes ended up being anticlimactic because of the lack of emotion and realism behind these scenes.

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