The series' main detective is Mike Shepherd (Neil Rea), a man who seems out of place in the rural countryside of Brokenwood. While he has a few slightly different views on murder investigations, he is balanced quite well by Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland, The Almighty Johnsons), a by-the-book officer who is well known in the area.
In the show's first episode, "Blood and Water," Shepherd is sent to Brokenwood in order to help in the investigation of a body, but it quickly becomes obvious that he is in Brokenwood for other reasons. As Shepherd digs into the case, questions about the deceased's past start to come up. It seems he was the prime suspect in his wife's death several years before, and Shepherd is also having trouble tracking down some old records from that earlier case.
This episode not only introduces us to Shepherd and Sims, but also local jack-of-all-trades Jared Morehu (Pana Hema Taylor, Spartacus: War of the Damned). By the end of this initial mystery, Shepherd will be permanently stationed in the small town and he will rely on both Sims and Jared to sleuth out the rest of the mysteries that he faces.
In "Sour Grapes," a local wine judging ends on a bad note when the judge is found dead in a vat at one of the local vineyards. Of course, all evidence seems to point to that particular vineyard's owner, a rough-around-the-edges woman with little social skills, but a keen talent at the science of wine-making. But, as you would expect in any good murder mystery, the obvious choice is often too simple and this particular episode has a few twists and turns before the real events surrounding the murder are revealed.
The show's third episode, "Playing the Lie," centers around a golf course. When one of the establishment's board members is found dead, the investigation quickly turns to the other board members and what their motives might be for killing the woman. They aren't the only suspects though, between the dead woman's daughter, the daughter's hoodlum of a boyfriend, and the dead woman's mysterious lover, there seem to be a lot of prime motives running around.
Series 1 wraps up with what could be a hunting accident, a suicide or a well-executed murder - it really is hard to tell. Three friends go out into the woods to celebrate some upcoming nuptials. When shots are fired, the groom-to-be is found dead, and according to forensics, he was killed with his own rifle. Like before, Shepherd and his team must dig into the lives of the people around the deceased, and as always, they end up learning of some rather twisted bits of history.
While most of The Brokenwood Mysteries consists of one-off stories, each episode reveals a bit more about Shepherd, Sims and even Jared. At first, Shepherd appears to be a gruff character who barges into a town that doesn't know how to deal with him, but as the show progresses, we learn more about his past, and even a mysterious local woman that he seems to be keeping an eye on. While Shepherd's techniques are a little off, they do get the job done and the cases get solved.
The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 1 has two special features, both interviews. One featurette talks with Rea and Sutherland about their characters and the show, while the other is with the show's Head Writer, Timothy Balme (The Almighty Johnsons). While neither interview is long, they are a nice bit of added fluff to round out a rather good season. It's just a shame that there are only four episodes to enjoy.