The collection starts off with a mystery surrounding a divided village. A local spiritual group is clashing with the church and the conflict only grows when the undertaker is found dead. Fingers start pointing on both sides of the conflict and it's up to DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and DS Scott to sift through everything and learn exactly what is going on.
Series 8's second episode, "Dead in the Water," focuses on the death of the local Rowing Club's chairman. It is quickly apparent that the deceased was a bit of a ladies man and has left a string of possible suspects in his wake. Everything from jilted lovers to angry boyfriends and husbands seem to be plausible avenues of investigation. Meanwhile, this episode also features a young Owain Yeoman (now known for his role in The Mentalist) as a potential Olympic rower.
Other amusing episodes in this collection's first half include a black-market orchid deal involving a very rare species, as well as a mystery concerning the ownership of a racing horse after its owner passes away. While several people have equal rights to the horse, their deaths start to narrow down the suspect list.
The episode "Second Sight" has a slightly different feel to it than most Midsomer Murders. When a death occurs outside of a pub, Barnaby and Scott start to uncover an unexpected talent among the villagers. Its seems that quite a few of them claim to have the ability to see the future. Their investigation uncovers a local scientist who seems to be trying to isolate the ability and when locals need a bit of extra cash, they go to him to be experimented on. The episode reminded me a good bit of the classic X-Files episode, "The Post-Modern Prometheus."
Series 8 wraps up with a murder investigation that looks like a money-troubled man's suicide, a death in a relish factory, and a murder over the rights of a famous song. The first of these has some interesting twists that leave Barnaby and Scott to uncover a very interesting con job. The relish-related mystery is close to Barnaby's heart because he remembers his dad loving this particular condiment, while the last one is memorable not only because of the interesting tale it weaves, but also because it is Scott's last appearance.
Series 9 starts off with Ben Jones replacing Scott as Barnaby's aid. In this episode, the young constable is recruited by Barnaby to help solve a mystery surrounding a supposedly haunted house. Jones quickly shows he has what it takes as the duo look into exactly who wants to buy the house and what they are willing to do to drive the price down.
This series' second episode, "Dead Letters," has an amusing nod to the show's very first mystery, "The Killings at Badger's Drift." Barnaby and Jones investigate the death of a carnival queen from some years back. As this year's carnival starts to get going, Barnaby recognizes two people he swears were killed during the Badger's Drift case so many years ago. This episode even has a bit of a special feature tied to it that shows the characters Barnaby references.
Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files continues when a wealthy and multiply divorced man drops dead at a major family get-together just as he was about to make some grand announcement. While the death looks completely natural, Barnaby insists that there is more going on than a simple case of heart attack. As he digs deeper, he learns interesting secrets, not only about each of the wives, but also about the missing Butler Emeralds that pretty much everyone is convinced the deceased recently found.
In "Down Among the Dead Men," the death of an accountant leads Barnaby and Jones on a strange trail that goes beyond the confines of Midsomer. What they find along the way is an odd mixture of blackmail and revenge. Meanwhile, "Four Funerals and a Wedding" delves into a tradition in one of the villages that dates back almost a hundred years. This particular tradition was started when the men of a particular family left to go to war and never returned. Now, each year, a battle of the sexes takes place to determine which side is the stronger. Too bad this year's events also includes a bit of murder.
While most Midsomer Murders episodes are good, I especially liked the last three in this collection. The first focuses on a death in a village that is debating over a discount grocery store's arrival. When a man very few people recognize dies, Barnaby's investigations lead to an unexpected second source of income for several of the village's prominent ladies. Thankfully, the desire to tape these ... business meetings... helps to piece together the dead man's last day alive.
"Death in Chorus" strikes pretty close to home as Barnaby and Jones investigate the death of a member of Joyce's choir. As the choir tries to perfect some difficult hymns for a local competition, Barnaby starts to question why the rivalry between this church and another's choir is so strong. As always, lies cover other lies and and the real truth seems to come from an entirely different direction.
Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files wraps up with an episode that actually starts with Barnaby arresting someone for murder. The story this time has Barnaby starting to second guess his investigation while the woman is on trial, but no matter how many times he looks at the evidence, he just doesn't see anyone else with a motive. As he starts to piece together the hidden events, Barnaby realizes that he has to act fast if he is going to reveal what really happened before the trial ends.
Village Case Files is a solid collection that is a great way to get caught up on missing mysteries if you didn't already get them during their previous releases. While it is light on special features, it does have a couple. Outside of the aforementioned "Killings at Badger's Drift" snippet, there is also a set of production notes and text-based interviews with Nettles and Hughes.