Style and Setting
‘Midsomer Murders’ has the style conventions of the country house whodunits. The series is set in the fictional English country called Midsomer. The characters usually consist of those who are: snobbish (Honoria Lyddiard), Self obsessed (Brian Clapper) and they are all, of course, eccentrics. They love their tea and there personas clash as each thinks of themselves more important. This is seen in ‘Written in Blood’ where they each think their story is the better, or their writer the most learned.
The beautiful English villages and warm cups of tea are great eye candy and act as icing on a poisoned cake. Each character wrestles with their issues, providing room for red herrings. Like Poirot, Barnaby is the detective of high morality who seems to have it all together despite the evil that lurks in the luscious Midsomer countryside.
There is a constant amount of relaxing humor that is ongoing through the show as well as their being a suspenseful atmosphere. One humor motif is the terrible driving of Troy and his habit of stating the obvious to Barnaby and receiving patronizing, but well humored, replies. The Lyddiard mansion has an enhanced amount of a sinister atmosphere by the absence of the constant humor. It is the suspense peak of the show. There is a frame where Honoria Lyddiard stabs through a door so that you can see her mad face through the hole that is left. This suspense shot is a direct allusion from the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Shinning’ where Jack Nickelson says that famous line ‘Here’s Jonny!’
This first season of Midsomer Murders was filmed in the late nineties. It is contemporary text and uses the technology available to them at the time. It isn’t technology driven and very much relies on the detective work and thoughts of the Chief Inspector.
Morals in the modern world have become a personal issue and not a combined view held by society. Anything goes. This view contrasts with Honoria’s old fashioned views and she is shocked to have her bubble burst by the transvestite Gerald Hadleigh.
The nineties still carried on the notion of ‘Greed is good’ that was strongly present in the 1980s. All the characters are greedy, except for the officers.
The set location is almost always in the Chilterns area of Buckinghamshire and the surrounding counties of Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. All great, countries with many small villages.
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby(John Nettles):
Barnaby is a senior member of the Midsomer Constabulary's Causton CID. He is calm and isn’t quick to jump to conclusions or solutions. He uses logic and method to solve cases, remembering fine details of interviews that are essential in his reconstruction of the crime.
In the series Barnaby is often helped indirectly by his family, Joyce Barnaby and Cully Barnaby, whom he loves. In this episode, ‘Written in Blood’, his wife reads him quotes from Max Jennings’s book that helps to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy(Daniel Casey):
Troy is Barnaby's deputy. He attended a local comprehensive in Midsomer where he hated going and where, in this episode, he takes revenge on. He is very bright which accounts for his young age as a Detective Sergeant. He does, however, jump to conclusions that point to his inexperience. He has a young sense of humor, ‘Bouncing Barbara’.
Honoria Lyddiard(Anna Massey):
Honoria is a very old, wealthy and snobbish old woman. She is very withered and has cruel, pursed lips like the mouth of a turkey.
She is obsessed with her late brother Ralph Lyddiard, who was Amy Lyddiard’s wife. She knew he died of AIDS and suspects it was all Amy’s fault. When she learns that he dear Ralph was a homosexual and had an intimate relationship with Gerald Hadleigh, that probably caused his death, she killed him. She beat him with the candlestick and stole all the cloths that pointed to him being a cross dresser or transvestite.
She was mad from the beginning but was seen as mad when she tries to kill Amy. She has Ralph’s corpse in a room under preservation.
Troy: ‘she must be as mad as a hatter!’
Barnaby: ‘Hatters seem very sane people as compared to Honoria Lyddiard.’
Max Jennings(John Shrapnel):
Max is a psychiatrist turned writer who wrote the best seller entitled Far Away Hills. The book is actually all about Gerald Hadleigh, one of his patients. When he came to the writer’s meeting, Gerald was afraid of what he might do and he ended up poisoning Max when he came back into the house.
Barnaby: ‘Think about it Troy. What would you do if you told someone, a professional healer, a friend, all your inner most secrets? Your entire life history and he turned it into a best selling book?’
Troy: ‘I’d kill him.’
Gerald Hadleigh(Robert Swann):
No one in the town really knew who Gerald was. This is because his identity was stolen. ‘You see, I don’t have any experience I can write about. Not now.’
He was the man in Max’s book. The boy was molested and who had shot his father. He lived in secret. He never had a wife, it was just a picture avoid any such suspicion of him being a cross dresser or a gay.
Values and Themes:
This text values the intricate puzzle. The mystery behind the kind faces and warm tea. It also values reality but does not rely on science to solve cases. It is more an Intuitionist text than a Realist.
The basic theme of ‘Written in Blood’ is just that.
Firstly, There is the idea that Gerald would kill because his identity was stolen and turned into a best seller like Honoria would kill to have her Ralph’s identity known and for the truth of the ugliness to be hidden. It’s ironic how he strives for his identity, while she strives to publish someone else’s.
The title ‘Written in Blood’ can refer to the novel Far Away Hills, in that the writing of the book was the death of Max Jennings. He was doomed from the start. The title could also refer to the work of Honoria Lyddiard being her bloodline. Her work to be loved by herself would have to shed the blood of those who knew the truth. Those like Gerald and Amy.
How It Adheres to and Diverts from the Conventions of Crime Fiction
Midsomer Murders is a contemporary text, written into the Intuitionists conventions of the Golden Age. It is therefore, Hybrid.
Firstly, it Adheres to the conventions of Contemporary texts because:
1, The detective is part of a team. As well as being in the farce, Barnaby is accompanied by Troy.
2, Most of the suspects are stubborn. This is seen in Brian Clapper’s stubbornness to be honest to the police with his whereabouts after the meeting. The red herring was his little crime of his own that he was covering up.
3, The facts are presented to the viewers as they come about, and Barnaby always talks through his dilemmas.
4, the murder is in an open setting.
5, The killer is mad.
It holds the following Intuitionist conventions:
1, The country house setting
2, Sensible detective who solves the crime using thought and great observation. This is seen in how Barnaby recalls Barbara saying that Max was once a psychiatrist.
3, Time and place are important elements that the detective must use to solve the crime.
The normal crime fiction constants are present such as a crime, a clue and a question of identity. These peoples conservative appearance acts as a disguise and camouflage against their environment.
Although the police are represented as real characters, the flaws are only seen in Troy and not in Barnaby. He is shown as human, through his allergy to the cat, but doesn’t make critical mistakes.