GUEST COLUMN by Alice Maltin
When actor John Nettles decided to hang up his badge as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby and walk into the sunset (or wherever they told us he was going), that ended one of TVs most enjoyable British murder mystery series. Then they had the audacity to return with Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby—Tom’s cousin! I wished they hadn’t done that…but they did, and you know what? He’s really good. They pulled it off.
Tom Barnaby was a smart, likeable and easygoing DCI who never lost a case, or his temper. He had a devoted wife and daughter and a trusty sergeant, Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). His cousin, DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) is also smart, with a degree in psychology, equally likeable and has an independent wife who is a school principal. He knows he has to earn the trust and respect of his co-workers.
There are the usual resentments (how come he got the job and not me, etc). Coming from the big city of Brighton he has to play it very carefully and not show that he’s the smartest guy in the room, which he is. For good measure (and to make us more comfortable), Sergeant Jones has returned as well. Young Jones, who came to Midsomer in 2005, is still single and not the brightest light in the constabulary. He means well and is in terrific shape. It’s up to him to perform all the chasing, jumping, and last minute saves that we leave to the younger guys.
I’ve come to accept Tom’s cousin John and I await more episodes of murder, jealousy, picturesque countrysides, quaint old customs, and even more murders. And I’m becoming quite a fan of that sly twinkle in John’s eye.
When this series began in 1997, I bet they never thought they’d still be solving crimes in 2012. Set 21 has 4 new mysteries: Death in the Slow Lane, Dark Secrets, Echoes of the Dead, and The Oblong Murder. A review quote on the cover describes it as a “British rural version of Law & Order.” I’m certain they did this to attract new American fans, as there is already a British Law & Order. But as a Yank who’s also an Anglophile, I enjoy taking a virtual vacation to visit England via this series, murders and all. Midsomer Murders: Set 21 is available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD from Acorn.