As always, DS Mike Shepherd (Neil Rea), Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) and DC Sam Breen (Nic Sampson) are on these cases delving into not only the mystery on hand, but also each other's history. We will learn some more details about Mike's deceased wife, get a hint at some of Breen's phobias, and Sims find herself trying out a new hobby by the end of the car-centric episode "The Killing Machine."
Of course, the three detectives aren't the only main characters in this series. As always, Mike's neighbor, Jared Morehu (Pana Hema Taylor), will find himself involved in one way or another with each mystery, but that's to be expected by this jack-of-all-trades at this point in the series, and the department's medical examiner, Dr. Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda) will continue to provider her unique brand of examination coupled with her odd Russian humor. There are the other recurring characters, the citizens of Brokenwood. These are the characters that appear occasionally and could have either large or small parts to add to each story. For instance, one of Series 3's mysteries focuses a lot on the local pub owner, Ray Neilsen (Jason Hoyte), while another just has him appear as a small witness to events leading up to the first death in the episode. The same is also true with Reverend Greene (Roy Ward). In some episodes, he is hardly present, but in another, he becomes a major player. We also see the return of Frodo (Karl Willetts) and the local chemist, Neil Bloom (Phil Peleton), and, of course, there is always the amusing and just plain off Mrs. Marlowe (Elizabeth McRae), who always seems to be around when some of the worst deeds in Brokenwood happen. Series 3 also introduces a new recurring character in Jared's aunt, Tina (Nicola Kawana), a very devout and opinionated woman who will cause trouble on more than one occasion.
In the first mystery, "The Black Widower," Ray Neilsen is running a tour van group that claims to be giving tours of locations from The Lord of the Rings filmings. While a slight misspelling in his company's name might keep his enterprise technically legal, when Neilsen's wife comes up dead, Mike and his team have to suspect everyone, even Ray. As the investigation continues, there appear to be ties to a venomous spider, and the detectives start to question the local expert on the species. While the spider-angle is a strong possibility, the fact that there is some sort of disagreement over the land that the tours take place on is also of note, especially considering the harm it is doing to other tourist businesses in Brokenwood.
In "Over Her Dead Body," the funeral of a local famous poet ends abruptly when the casket breaks open to reveal a young Asian woman instead of the robust man. Not only do Mike and his team have to figure out where the poet is, but they also have to identify this woman and track down the source of the knife wound in her chest. During their investigation, they will learn some odd facts about both deceased parties and even learn of some unusual role-playing activities by some of Brokenwood's residents (don't worry, it's not as dirty as you are probably thinking).
The third episode, "The Killing Machine," reveals that there is a large group of car enthusiasts in Brokenwood. When a body is discovered at a local mechanic's shop, it is assumed he was breaking in to steal a vehicle, but when that shop's owner ends up dead the next day, more questions have to be asked. To make matters worse, some old friends of Jared's show up in town for the car show just in time for these deaths. When altercations between his friends and the newly deceased get known, Jared finds himself in the middle of more than one tough situation.
In The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 3's final mystery, "A Merry Bloody Christmas," the Mayor is found dead in his house still wearing the Santa suit he had on during the Christmas parade mere hours before his body's discovery. As Mike, Sims and Breen try to narrow down everyone's movements, they soon realize someone is missing, the Mayor's campaign manager. When she is also found dead, and also in a Santa suit, the mystery just gets weirder. While the Mayor is generally well loved, there are a few notable suspects around, the least of which are the four people running against the victim for Mayor.
This season of The Brokenwood Mysteries comes with a photo gallery and two interviews. One is with Rea, Sutherland and Sampson about the filming of the season and the other is with the show's lead writer, Tim Balme, about the show overall. Both are interesting, and while short, still worth watching for fans of the series. While not a special feature, it is also worth noting how stunning this show looks on Blu-ray. The New Zealand vistas really shine in HD and it's no wonder that The Lord of the Rings was filmed here... well, not in the same exact spot, otherwise Ray Neilsen's tour from the "The Black Widower" wouldn't be quite the underhanded business that it is.
As always, these four mysteries are a delight to watch and work through alongside the detectives. Each story has some unique twists and the involvement of the recurring characters makes the overall experience richer. While other series, like Midsomer Murders, have a longer history, I feel like The Brokenwood Mysteries is a wonderful breath of fresh air that I can't wait to devour each time it comes out.