When he wrote the first episode of Midsomer Murders back in 1997, Anthony Horowitz had no idea what he was about to unleash on the quiet town of Causton. Episode one was entitled the Killings at Badgers Drift and featured the first of what would become over 300 murders stretching over 100 episodes and nearly 20 years.
The original inspector Barnaby, brilliantly played by John Nettles, has come and gone, replaced by a new Barnaby. Yet despite his abilities as a detective, it seems the Midsomer police just can’t stop the carnage.
Of course, the British have a strange fascination with murder. It is this obsession that led Agatha Christie (coincidentally a resident of the real life Midsomer) to become the most published author in history, selling more copies than even William Shakespeare across the world.
Based on the books by Caroline Graham, Midsomer Murders was an instant hit on ITV and has featured murders involving bludgeoning with cricket bats, drownings in wine and hit and runs by milk vans.
The fictional county of Midsomer is based in the real life region of Southern Oxfordshire, with smaller areas of Midsomer Deverell, Mallow and Malham seeing more grizzly deaths than Al Capone’s Chicago back in prohibition America.
The skill of Horowitz and the charm of the show comes from making what is essentially depressing and nasty stories seem like harmless fun. In real life a murder rate this high would be cause of huge alarm, yet the suspension of disbelief, humour and subtle production keep the viewers glued to the screens and itching for the next inventive killing.
Hororwitz, writing in the Daily Mail in 2009, said: ‘In a society where we tend to keep our feelings under wraps (particularly in the incestuous world of an English village), murder is the perfect excuse to look behind the net curtains and to start peeling away the outer layers of the people you find within.’ And who are we to argue with that?