In the set's first episode, "The Village That Rose from the Dead," a village that was shut down and taken by the military as a training ground after World War II is about to be re-opened to the public. While the exact purpose of Little Auburn is still up the in air, a death the night before the village's future is to be unveiled could throw a wrench in everyone's plans.
John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and the latest Detective Sergeant he is considering to replace Charlie Nelson are called to Little Auburn to investigate a young man who has been run over by a tank. DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) has to think quickly to impress Barnaby and while he does eventually fall into John's good graces, he seems to get off on the wrong foot when he gets side-tracked by reminiscing with Dr. Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk), the Medical Examiner who was introduced last season. Apparently Winter and Kam have some history and that past will be a recurring topic throughout these four episodes.
As Barnaby and Winter investigate the death, they learn that the first victim, Finn Thornbury (Edwin Thomas) and his girlfriend, Corina (Catherine Steadman) proposed the village be reborn into a green-space. Meanwhile, another couple, Blake and Lucy Keswick (Christopher Colquhon and Sally Phillips, respectively) plan to have luxury housing put in its place. The only proposal on the board in favor of restoring Little Auburn comes from Sylvia Leonard (Caroline Blakiston, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), a woman that was forced to leave the village when she was just a girl. Her idea is to turn the area into a living museum.
As is always the case in Midsomer Murders, Barnaby finds a close-knit community that is a bit incestuous. Corina's father, Roderick (Hugh Dennis), is the patriarch of the family and owner of the land. Meanwhile, Roderick's niece works for the Keswicks and Sylvia's son is Roderick's lawyer, and he knows exactly what Roderick's plans are for the land. As the bodies start to pile, the fate of the little village seems to be in constant shift, especially when Roderick becomes one of the victims and the land's ownership changes.
This episode also marks the first appearance of the Barnaby's new dog. In the show, Sykes has passed on, and by an odd coincidence, one of the victims has a dog that now needs a home. Thus Paddy, a somewhat hyper puppy, joins the Barnaby family.
"Crime and Punishment," the collection's second mystery, has Barnaby and Winter traveling to Bleakridge, the village furthest from Causton and the least-patrolled area in the county. The village had a long history of crime until the community got together and created a very militant neighborhood watch bent on keeping everyone in check. When a butcher, and prominent Bleakridge Watch member, is murdered, the investigation has Barnaby looking at everyone from the Watch's commanders to the local pub owner, Mitch McAllister (Neil Morrissey, Striking Out, Waterloo Road, Line of Duty), that has been harassed by the Watch on more than one occasion.
Series 19's third episode, "Last Man Out," has a surprise guest star in Jason Hughes, reprising his role as Ben Jones. When the death of a prominent local cricket player brings Barnaby and Winter to investigate a village team, Barnaby is surprised to find Jones claiming to be a man named "Jack Morris." Now a DI, Jones is undercover, but he has to keep many of the details close to the vest, in order to keep from compromising his investigation. Now Barnaby has to keep Winter and the rest of the investigative team out of Jones' hair and keep Ben from being a suspect, which isn't easy, considering the fact that he keeps popping up as the plot thickens.
The last mystery in the collection is "Red in Tooth & Claw." Here, an annual pet show starts off with a murder of a local real estate agent. When a prize winning rabbit goes missing, the motivations behind the death become rather muddied, especially when that rabbit's owner and the owner's wife both have conflicting alibis. When the deaths start mounting up, it's hard for Barnaby and Winter to not see the connection between the victims and a local young woman, the first victim's girlfriend and the second's daughter, but outside of that particular connection, what could they have in common?
Midsomer Murders: Series 19, Part 1 comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette for each of the collection's four episodes. The two on the first disc, "The Village That Rose from the Dead" and "Crime and Punishment" are each lengthy, while the last two are noticeably short. That being said, given most of the releases for the past series of Midsomer Murders didn't have any extras on their discs, even these shorter segments are a welcome addition. There is also a short featurette on Barnaby's new dog, Paddy, and the fact that the dog that played their previous pet retired. While many of the clips in this Paddy-centric extra are reused from the featurette for "The Village That Rose from the Dead," there are a few extra bits concerning training the new pet-actor.
Series 19, Part 1 is a lot of fun. Not only does Winter feel like a different type of DS than the waves of sidekicks Barnaby has had in the past, but bringing Hughes back for one episode makes for some interesting scenes between the former sidekick and the new one. As always, Midsomer Murders continues to delight as a light mystery series that never gets too dark.