“All artists want immortality, Sergeant. They’re not going to let a trivial thing like death get in the way.”
It’s easy to mock Midsomer Murders, but there’s actually something very comfortingly Agatha Christie-ish about watching an episode every once in a while. The Dagger Club plods on through its two-hour plot, resolutely bloodless, improbable yet perennially unsurprising: two women are murdered during a crime literature festival in a manner identical to the plot of a crime novel by a dead author whose last manuscript is to be unveiled as the high point of the festival. There’s something lovely about the fact that the murderer will inevitably be a major character from a cast of about seven, and that the police will have no problem in uncovering who it is, and that the culprit will make a long and distraught speech detailing every single psychological motivation they have ever had ever. There are no secrets in Midsomer. It is a forgivingly easy thing to watch, with none of the irritatingly problematic gender politics of Death in Paradise (which isn’t to say that it isn’t sexist, only that the sexism doesn’t jump up and down in front of your nose waving its arms) or the soul-searching of Lewis. It just is. And, very probably, will ever be.
The episode is, happily, helped along by its performances: James Lance is wonderfully slimy as popular paranormal crime author Silas Raven; Ed Birch is unnervingly intense as obsessional data analyst Curtis; and Una Stubbs manages to inject some acidic wit into her otherwise fairly clunky predatory-old-lady character (“I’ll get a lovely view from the moral high ground”, she says, possibly my favourite line in the episode). And the fact that everything takes place against a backdrop of bookshops and publishing houses gives it a little extra charm.
I wouldn’t want to watch an entire series of Midsomer Murders, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed watching this over my lunches. Possibly the ad breaks helped as well; the whole thing became a lot more bearable when interspersed with checking my Booklikes dashboard. But whatever else it is, Midsomer Murders is certainly easy.