In the first mystery, "The Dagger Club," Barnaby and Nelson come across two strange, yet identical murders. The two deaths are caused by roulette wheels that were delivered to the houses that, when spun, electrocute the spinner. When the investigators start to look into the case, they quickly realize that the deaths match the murders in an early Dagger Mystery novel, whose writer just happened to live in the area before his death some years ago. In fact, one of the victims was the artist who did the cover art for those books, and apparently she and her husband were about to publish a newly-found Dagger manuscript. Unfortunately, a robbery report filed the night before claims that the manuscript was stolen, and given that the nature of the book was kept a tight secret, several locals question not only if it was authentic, but if it existed in the first place.
In an episode with a bit more flash and bang, "Murder by Magic" seems to tie a local illusionist to several murders that happen in the middle of his shows, but the one that doesn't happen during his performance could be the key to figuring out exactly what is going on. The first death happens when the show occurs in a church that is in need of extra funds. At first, it isn't clear if the intended victim was the magician, or the person who actually died at the scene. Barnaby's theories start to go out the window though, when another body appears on the altar of an old pagan temple. Could the deaths actually be associated with the late-night events, or maybe it is how the church and that secretive group feel about each other?
This episode was also accompanied by two featurettes, one focusing on the actors, the other about the magic tricks performed in the episode. The actor-centric featurette interviews Director Charlie Palmer, Dudgeon and Lee about some people they worked with in this episode. It also contains interviews with guest stars like Jack Shepherd, Deborah Findlay, Amanda Burton and Stephanie Leonidas, who all played critical roles in this episode. The other featurette not only talks about bringing an illusionist on set to design several magic tricks, but to also teach Lee a few close-up magic tricks as this episode reveals that Nelson harbored desires to take to the magic circuit when he was younger.
"The Ballad of Midsomer County," the series' third episode, has a similar feel to "The Dagger Club." A crop of murders start showing up, and all seem to be tied to an old folk song about a chance meeting between a boy and girl in Midsomer County. The first victim is the coordinator of a local folk music festival, and as Barnaby digs into the investigation, he learns that there might be ties to a death some years ago involving a rising folk singer and the last album he was recording. This episode also has a special feature associated with it, and it is a behind the scenes look at the episode, as well as a bit about creating the song that was used.
The final episode of Series 17 takes place at a vineyard. "A Vintage Murder" starts off with a potential poisoning at the unveiling of a new sparkling wine, but troubles increase when bodies start turning up, and all seem to be connected to Midsomer Vinae Winery in one way or another. Like many mysteries in the series, it seems that the deaths occurring now are tied to some deep, dark secret from the past, and Barnaby has to sift through the lies and history to determine who might be killing people today, not to mention who was behind the incident some five years before.
The four episodes in Midsomer Murders: Series 17 are good mysteries that will keep you guessing from beginning to end. I especially enjoyed "Murder by Magic," as the conflicts between the church, the pagans, and the magician add an interesting dynamic to what would have otherwise been a standard Midsomer murder investigation. While the other three were fun to watch, and should still be enjoyable to followers of the series, this one just felt a cut above the rest.