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06/30/2013

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Again, elements of the plot picked up and abandoned or treated arbitrarily. That nags at you even when the story is interesting in its way. As in:

1. Why was the husband seeking a divorce?

2. Just how did that girl's hair get into the man's car? The identified perpetrator had no direct connection to this suspect.

3. How did the mother of said suspect manage to fool the emergency room personnel into thinking she had an injured ankle, and how could such a borderline case be tolerable for anyone around her?

4. How is it that the master of the college in question is so nonchalant about being exposed as having sold placements? Would not his employment, standing in the community, and perhaps his pension be in danger? His explanation of himself made no sense.

5. How much revenue could you possibly get out of families like the one extorted? It seemed like an ordinary petit bourgeois or prosperous working-class family, so how do they come by that sum of money?

6. How could this pair successfully conceal a dead body then move it off-site to an attic so inaccessible it is undiscovered for 15 years? Why do it if the person died in an accident?

7. The perpetrator was supposedly a working scholar-teacher with a completed doctorate and a research staff as of 1998. They woman who portrays her looks about 25, the actress in question is supposedly 36, and the genuine article would have to be 40, minimum.

8. And, again, they seemed to be developing a character inspired by Michael Behe but then make him a man very unlike Michael Behe and then abandon that element of the character entirely.

While we are at it:

How often is it that a woman in her middle 30s has a woman 25 or 30 years her senior as her best gal pal?

How is it that a man bound and determined to atone for his transgressions after a year in prison embarks on a discretionary divorce from his very patient wife?

--

And the usual, about all these sorts of mysteries:

How many biochemistry professors can you locate in the UK who are identified double or triple murderers?

Heh. I wish I had time to take note of each of your points. Numbers 3 and 4 struck me, too. In fact I remember talking back to the TV at the point where #4 was presented. I thought #2 was eventually explained but now I can't remember exactly how...oh yeah, it was the father of the boy (Adam?) whose girlfriend's hair it was. A bit far-fetched, but not totally unbelievable.

But re your last one: gosh, that sort of objection applies to an awful lot of murder mysteries. Besides, how many university faculty members walk into a meeting, pull out a gun, and shoot most of the people in the room, as happened a few years ago? It's in the nature of the thing that you're talking about an extraordinary event.

One of the things that made me like it better than most (mind you, I'm not saying it was great) was the treatment of religion. Hathaway actually appeared to have one, which in the past had merely been stated, not demonstrated.

#2 was not explained. Familial DNA was found in the car which identified the father of the girl's bf as having been in the car. However, one of her hairs with an intact follicle was found in the car on the headrest. It would have had to have been transferred (with the follicle) to Adam and then to his father and then to have remained there for a couple of years. Far-fetched, and never delineated.

I run the numbers on the back of an envelope. Serial killers are quite unusual in the States. Currently, law enforcement have been identifying about 30 people a decade who are known to have killed at least 4 people serially (v. 117 during the 1970s). Apart from that, I believe the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports I have seen enumerate multi-victim homicides with at least 3 victims as about 5x as common as those with at least 4 victims. So, let's guess there are 150 perpetrators per decade identified as having killed 3 or more people serially. Homicide rates in Britain are about 40% those in the States and the country has a population less than a quarter that of the U.S., so you want to guess that Britain identifies about 13 cases a decade of perpetrators who have killed at least three persons serially.

It is amazing the proportion of these 13 people who you find on the Oxford faculty or in small villages in County Somerset. Always the same 4 detectives investigating these cases too. Do you remember that small town in Maine that had a homicide rate higher than Detroit'?

In the previous episodes, Hathaway was on leave doing Habitat-for-Humanity type work in Croatia. Maybe they send him back to the clergy. He has always been an obscure figure, so his resignation seems less odd than it otherwise would. The actor Kevin Whately is 62 and looks it bar the absence of grey hair, so the retirement makes sense.

They finally push Lewis and Hobson into the same bed. It seems arbitrary at this point, rather faux-de-mieux.

Yes, the murder rate among Oxford faculty is really the most entirely unbelievable feature of the series, and many like it. Who's in County Somerset?

#2 is far-fetched, but at least there's something. #3 and #4 seemed entirely unbelievable to me.

It wasn't clear, though it was suggested, that Hathaway's Croatian work was religiously connected. Kneeling before a crucifix, on the other hand, is pretty clear. Well, it is presumably an Anglican church, but still...

Lewis and Hobson was a boring foregone conclusion, maybe inserted for the benefit of romantics. I guess they didn't want him to ride off into the sunset alone.

I remember a comedian back in the day saying the same thing about Honolulu when "Hawaii Five-0" was a hit: who the hell would want to vacation there when people are getting killed and robbed all the time?

Still, one shouldn't treat mysteries as if they were sociological documentaries (which is not to say that they don't have any sociologically value.)

Midsommer Murders is set in Somerset.

There were about 450,000 people living in greater Honolulu ca. 1974. An ordinary metropolis of that dimension would at that time have had about 50 murders a year, so a season of Hawaii Five-O would not have exceeded the quantum of mayhem you found on the ground. Then again, Honolulu's demographics were quite peculiar (over a third of the population ethnic Japanese) and they likely never had nearly that many, much less that many perpetrated by cat burglars, jewel thieves, and crooked businessmen.

I can suspend disbelief from one episode to the next, and accept yet another murder, or more typically series of murders, in a fairly limited area. It's the clunkers in the middle of a story that make me complain. Art's #3 was one for me, not so much about how she did it as that the whole exercise seemed unbelievable.

Haven't seen Midsommer Murders.

Btw next Sunday on PBS (here at least) is a new episode of Endeavor.

My guess was there was a plotline they brainstormed involving her injury (or "injury") that they later abandoned. Alternatively, it may have been well-developed and then edited out. There is a patchwork quality to these. Another alternative is that it was a plot device. She was an obvious suspect. The security footage of the ER clears her. The only problem with that explanation is that it makes no sense for Hathaway to discover later that she was malingering (for reasons that make little sense unless she is a crazy-ass-I-hate-you-don't-leave-me type; but if she is that hopeless, how does she earn a living running her own business?)

I watched a few of the Midsommer Murders episodes but found it a little "cozy" for my taste. My favorite recent series is "Red Riding," a three-parter set in Yorkshire. It's extremely dark, a la Prime Suspect, but very well-written and acted. I think that when it was released over here it came out as a theatrical trilogy (limited markets).

"I can suspend disbelief from one episode to the next, and accept yet another murder, or more typically series of murders, in a fairly limited area. It's the clunkers in the middle of a story that make me complain."

Yeah, I'm the same way. Although now that I'm getting used to shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad that have a large narrative arc, I'm finding the "every show an independent story" type of series less satisfying.

Here's Ebert's review of "Red Riding." I don't think it's quite as confusing as he makes it sound:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/red-riding-trilogy-2010

Prime Suspect was really too dark for my taste. At least the one series I watched was--I know there were others.

I'll eventually try Midsommer. I expect to start Breaking Bad before too long. I've been holding off on it because I didn't want to get as deeply hooked on something as I expect to be on that.

I'm a little embarrassed to say what series I have been watching: BBC thing called Monarch of the Glen. It's really not that good, about like an average American TV show, but my wife started watching it, and then I joined her one night when we wanted to watch something under an hour long, and got interested enough in seeing what would happen next that we've stuck with it. About ready to get to the end now. It's about a Scottish family in possession of an ancestral estate and trying to keep it intact under contemporary conditions. Based on Compton MacKenzie's work, which I know nothing about. Really really beautiful locale helps.

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