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Staff Recommendations – June 2017

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

June 2017 Recommendations

hooplaA Brewing Storm
by Richard Castle

Fans of the “Castle” TV series will remember that in the first episode author Richard Castle killed off his immensely popular book character, superspy Derrick Storm. Here are the three short stories that bring Storm out of hiding, allegedly written by Richard Castle. (Remember, Castle himself is a fictional character for the TV show, with Nathan Fillion the actor as the front man for this charade. We still don’t know who the actual author is of these stories.)

All three stories are available on Hoopla (streaming ebooks) or Overdrive (downloadable ebooks). Also available in book form in the omnibus “Ultimate Storm” through Inter-Library Loan.

In “A Brewing Storm” a Senator’s son is kidnapped. A well-written mystery with twists and turns, in addition to Storm’s signature witty asides. And this ends in a cliff-hanger.

The next book, “A Raging Storm” teams Storm with FBI agent April Showers as they hunt down an assassin and six billion dollars worth of gold bullion hidden by the KGB before the collapse of the USSR. Further layers are revealed in this mystery. Storm is witty, capable, and shows why he’s a superspy.

The third book in this trilogy, “A Bloody Storm” has Storm and Showers teamed with Ghost CIA Operatives – those who’ve faked their own deaths and come out of hiding to participate in extremely dangerous and usually illegal CIA operations. They head into Asia where they encounter The Viper, the most dangerous of extremists, and they may possibly have a traitor in their midst.

All three short stories are well-written with interesting plots, good character development, and Storm’s wit makes you laugh out lou.

Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm [YA Fetter-Vorm]

Well written, well-illustrated historical and scientific graphic novel of the Manhattan Project and its impact on history. Compared to other books I’ve read on the project this one takes a more scientific standpoint, in that it goes out of its way when needed, at various points in telling the story, to explain just what nuclear fission is, what an isotope is, why uranium was needed and not another element, what a super-critical reaction is, and how radiation poisoning causes damage to humans that can initially go unnoticed. The story is told rather linearly, with the science explanations interspersed, starting before the project began with the scientific breakthroughs that occurred that lead to the possibility of an atomic bomb, and finishing with the beginning of the Cold War. Within its 150 pages, I feel it did a really good job of providing an understanding of the how, when, where, and why of the project from a historical and scientific point of view. The domino effect was used at first to help visually explain nuclear fission reactions, but it also applies to what happened to history as a result of the project. I’d recommend this to both graphic novel readers and those who don’t usually read graphic novels, and those with in interest in history and science.

[If you would like another historical graphic novel I suggest you check out Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (741.5 Sat) and if you would like more on the Manhattan Project check out 109 East Palace, by Jennet Conant (623.451 Con) and/or Picturing the Bomb, by Rachel Fermi (355.825 Fer).] [ official Trinity web page on the official Jonathan Fetter-Vorm web site ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


A Touch of Farmhouse Charm
by Liz Fourez [747 Fou]

The book description claims these are easy DIY Projects. To my mind this means I could complete the task in an afternoon which is true for many of the projects but not all. Some of these projects can be quite involved so just pick-and-choose what you want to do, but overall the author has some interesting ideas here for shabby chic, country, and folk designs.

The book is divided into sections based on the room being decorated: Living Room, Dining Room & Entryway, Kitchen, etc. An overall list of Supplies is provided for each project, the level of difficulty (Beginner, Advanced, Intermediate), and then the directions along with photos at the various stages.

Projects include adding stripes to kitchen towels for a farmhouse feel, building a small country bench, and painting bookends. There’s also a neat idea for displaying your old car license plates.

There are over 50 projects offered here. At the very least this is a fun browse.

[ official Liz Fourez web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl – The Definitive Edition
by Anne Frank [Compact Disc Biography Frank]

Despite the fact that Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl shows up on a lot of lists of required reading at various schools, I had some reached my mid-fifties without reading this historically noteworthy book. So, when I found the audiobook (Book-on-CD) format of this “Definitive Edition” on the New Items display at the downtown library, I figured it was finally time to check this one off of my must-read list.

I’m glad I did — this is a compelling and thought-provoking book, and one which I recommend to everyone interested in history and the personal impact that large-scale events can have on each of us. This definitive edition reprints the classic work, but includes portions that have been edited out of previous releases. Anne’s diary effectively reveals the claustrophobic fear of a group of people thrown together under extremely stressful conditions and having to remain hidden, or risk losing their lives. It also highlights the dangerous heroism of the helpers they had in the outside world, who provided them with food and supplies and helped to keep them hidden. On top of that, it is a coming-of-age story of a young girl, dealing with the typical issues that a 13-15 year old might face, including personal relationships, rapidly fluctuating emotions, and difficult connections with parents.

While listening to this audiobook, I did some online research to find out the fates of the main individuals in Anne’s story. Even though it was fully expected, it was appalling to learn how many of them did not survive the war, mostly dying or being executed in the concentration camps. The fact that Anne’s diary survived, and can be shared, is a testimony to the courage and resourcefulness of those who found and hid it, and then returned it to Anne’s father after the war.

This audiobook version is extremely well done, however I do have one complaint. Selma Blair is fine as an audiobook narrator, but she would have been in her late 30s at the time this was recorded prior to its 2010 release. This book should have been audio narrated by a teenager, to provide more of a sense of authenticity. Hearing an obviously mature woman speak some of Anne’s personal and private thoughts just rings a bit false. Otherwise, however, I found this to be compelling reading/listening, and highly recommend it.

[ Wikipedia page for Diary of a Young Girl ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
by Chris Grabenstein [j Grabenstein]

This was a fun, light read. Kyle Keeley loves games, especially any created by the famous gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello. When Kyle learns that Mr. Lemoncello is the man who has funded and helped design the new Alexandriaville Public Library, he is desperate to see it. Kyle and his friends win tickets to spend the night in the library, before anyone else gets to walk through the doors. They are in awe of the new library and all it’s amazing automations, and have a blast playing games and eating delicious food. When they wake in the morning, they discover that all the adults are gone, and that Mr. Lemoncello has saved the best game for last; escape the library!

[ official Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library page on the official Chris Grabenstein web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi

As this title is one of our finalists for this year’s One Book – One Lincoln winner, I got a head start reading it, so I’d be able to facilitate discussions as needed. I’m very happy that this was chosen as one of the finalists. It’s a wonderfully written story about an African woman (The Woman of Fire) who narrowly escapes being enslaved by starting a forest fire. The woman leaves behind a daughter, and later has another daughter. The rest of the story follows the lives of these daughters, their children, their children’s children, etc. It goes all the way from the 18th Century to present day, with each chapter devoted to one descendant of either daughter. The chapters lightly touch on previous characters and parts of their story, but in essence, each chapter is like a stand-alone short story. I found it truly amazing, the way these people were all tied to each other, yet they each stood out in their own right. Something else I really appreciated was that each chapter had its own historical event that was taking place at that time, which really helped the reader get a handle on how time is progressing.

I borrowed this from the library, but this is one of the rare books that I think I’ll end up buying to re-read down the road!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Stand, by Stephen King (if you like stories with a LARGE cast of characters). For more on the topics of slavery and/or finding your history or roots: Roots, by Alex Haley, The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup or The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom] [ publisher’s official Homegoing web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Yaa Gyasi ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Desert Heat
by J.A. Jance

Joanna Brady, her husband Andy, and daughter live in small-town Bisbee, Arizonia, where Andy is a local lawman currently running for sheriff. Everything changes for Joanna when Andy is shot and the authorities are convinced it is a suicide. Joanna doesn’t care what they say, she knows that Andy was not involved in drug smuggling. Motivated to find who in the law department IS corrupt, Joanna decides to run for sheriff in Andy’s stead.

This is a light-easy to read mystery. Joanna is a spunky character, and the rest of the books in the series are just as enjoyable.

[ official Joanna Brady page on the official J.A. Jance web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Gwendy’s Button Box
by Stephen King [Compact Disc King]

I enjoyed listening to this book–it’s brand new, and I had no idea what I was in for. I love that it was set in the mid- to late-70’s. I love the main character, Gwendy, and the way she comes into her own as the story progresses. I love wondering how much of Gwendy’s life is of her own doing and how much is as a result of being the keeper of the button box. (I really love the idea of the Button Box and kind of want one for myself–and I kind of don’t, too.).

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, also by Stephen King.] [ publisher’s official Gwendy’s Button Box web page ] | [ official Stephen King web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


It
by Stephen King [Compact Disc King]

I’ve read this twice before, always thought it was pretty good… maybe a 3 1/2 Or 4 star rating. I just finished listening to Steven Weber’s reading of it. Oh my GOSH, was it amazing! There are so many things I hadn’t noticed before, so many things I’d forgotten. This is an EPIC story, worthy of every single moment I’ve spent on it! Yes, it’s one of King’s longer stories…. I wouldn’t change a thing!!!

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s a quick summary: there’s a really bad, scary monster/being/presence in the town of Derry, Maine. Sometimes It appears as a wolfman, or a mummy, or a sore-covered bum; but mostly, It appears as a clown. It comes back to “feed” every 27-30 years, focusing mostly on the small children of the area. In 1955, The Loser’s Club actually manages to cause some damage to It, and they think maybe kill It. However, in case they didn’t completely wipe It out, they make a promise through blood that they’ll come back to finish the job if they need to. In 1985, that’s just what they’re called to do. But can they kill It, now that they’ve all grown up?.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Firestarter, also by Stephen King, or The Vision, by Dean Koontz] [ official It page on the official Stephen King web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Heartless
by Melissa Meyer [YA Meyer]

Catherine’s goal in life is to open her own bakery. She is known as one of the best bakers of Wonderland, and in being so, has caught the attention of the unmarried king. Dealing with pressure from her family to encourage the king’s advances, Catherine herself is trying to rebuff them.

At the royal ball that Catherine has been dreading, where it is rumored that the king is going to propose to her, she meets Jest. Experiencing attraction for the first time, she and Jest begin a secret courtship.

This is a fresh look at Alice in Wonderland’s Evil Queen, and Wonderland. What was the queen like when she was young? What caused her to become the hated Queen of Hearts? .

[ official Heartless page on the official Melissa Meyer web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Find Me
by J.S. Monroe

A friend of mine, who works at another library in town, recommended this to me–I’m so glad she did!!! This one had me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I learned a lot about things happening right here, right now, that I didn’t even know about before. (Secret and sly things likeThe Dark Web, onion routers, etc., as well as things like using Stava to track cycling or running, the methods behind writing and posting “click-bait” on various websites, etc.)

I especially enjoyed reading about the main character, who is Irish. I have a thing for the Irish, being a bit Irish, myself.

This is a fast-paced thriller that I would highly recommend!!!.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.] [ official Find Me web site ] | [ official J.S. Monroe web site ]

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember
by Fred Rogers [158.1 Rog]

This is a pleasant, small little volume of inspirational quotes, thoughts or philosophies as spoken by Fred Rogers, the cardigan-bedecked genial host of the children’s TV show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Over a lengthy career as a children’s educator, both on-screen and in hundreds of personal appearances, Fred Rogers had a huge impact of literally hundreds of thousands of both children and adults. His always-upbeat, always thought-provoking ideas are well represented in this little collection. Broken up into thematic sections based on such categories as Love, Friendship, Respect, Individuality and Honesty, the content of this book is nice to balance against the negative things occasionally surrounding us in our daily lives!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Mister Rogers, by Tim Madigan.] [ official BOOK web site ] | [ official Fred Rogers Company web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Fuzzy Mud
by Louis Sachar [j Sachar]

Fifth grader Tamaya and seventh grader Marshall have been walking to and from school together for years. When Marshall is challenged by Chad to a fight, he decides to take a shortcut home through the off limits woods to avoid Chad. Tamaya decides to follow him rather than walk home by herself, which is against the rules.

As Marshall and Tamaya make their way through the woods, they make a discovery that could threaten their lives, and the world.

This was a quick, but enjoyable read. There are notes throughout the book from Senate Hearings which take place three months after event, and serve to increase suspense as the reader tries to decipher the fate of the characters. This book is nominated for the 2017-2018 Golden Sower Award.

[ official Fuzzy Mud “featured” page on the official Louis Sachar web site ]

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Recommended by Marie P.
Bennett Martin Public Library


hooplaShin Godzilla (Original Soundtrack Album)
by Shiro Sagisu

Very enjoyable soundtrack. I went to see this movie in the brief period it was shown in North America and I thought it was pretty good in comparison to other Godzilla movies I’ve seen. There are new songs and classic Godzilla tunes on this album, including some from King Kong vs. Godzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla, and Ghidorah. It will be more enjoyable if the music is familiar to you but is still really good, non-vocal music that anyone can enjoy. If you are not familiar with Godzilla, it’s worth mentioning that his name in Japanese is Gojira, so sometimes it’s called Shin Gojira, but it’s the same as Shin Godzilla. I thought it was a great soundtrack and if you’d like to check it out, you can on Hoopla as a streaming audio file (PC) or download (mobile app).

[Also on Hoopla, you may be interested to know, are a handful of Godzilla and other Kajiu movies for streaming or download. This includes Gojira (the original Godzilla movie), Rodan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Ghidorah, Godzilla Raids Again, and a number of Gamera movies. If you like comics too, there are a few Godzilla graphic novels too.] [ official IMdB page for Shin Godzilla ] | [ official Shiro Sagisu web site (mixture of Japanese and English) ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien/BBC Radio [Compact Disc j Tolkien]

This is a retelling to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I say a retelling because it’s not all three books simply read aloud, it’s a BBC Radio performance involving different voice actors for the different characters, singing, and music. There are 13 discs which are each a chapter of the story so that they each wrap up to some extent as if it were 13 episodes covering all three novels, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and the Return of the King. I enjoy audio books quite a bit in the car, which is usually just someone reading the story aloud, but this was extra entertaining with the full cast and sound effects. The Lord of the Rings is a favorite of mine, as it maybe for you as well and it was really fun to experience the story again in this way, rather than re-reading the book or watching the films again. I highly suggest you try this out if you enjoy Tolkien, either the books or the films. There is also a BBC Radio recording of the Hobbit, if you are interested in that too. I listened to it quite a few years ago and highly recommend that one too. If you have not experienced Tolkien’s work before, this is a perfect introduction to his classic fantasy world.

[ Wikipedia page for the Lord of the Rings BBC Radio Production ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles [Compact Disc Towles]

I managed to get my hands on audiobook (Book-on-CD) copies of all three of this year’s One Book – One Lincoln finalists, and A Gentleman in Moscow is the first one I decided to tackle, as it was the longest of three, at 14 discs. I’m quite pleased to have started with this one, as it was an absolutely charming book to listen to. The narrator, Nicholas Guy Smith, embues author Amor Towles’ novel with humor, pathos and a sense of great scope.

A Gentleman in Moscow tells part of the life story of Russian Count Alexander Rostov, from the moment during the Russian Revolution when he is sentenced to spend the rest of his life under “house arrest” in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow, across the street from the Kremlin. The novel covers the next 40 to 50 years, through the 1950s, as the aristocratic Count recalls his daily routines and the hotels employees and guests who become integral parts of his life. Of greatest importance is a serious young girl named Nina, who befriends the Count as a small child, and several years later returns to beg the Count to look after her own little girl, while she follows her husband into politically-charged exile. Initially merely a caretaker, the Count eventually becomes a second father to young Sofia, and also settles into a job as the head waiter in The Metropol’s grandest restaurant.

This novel is a celebration of Russian (and world) history, as Count Rostov is an observer of the forces changing Russia into a world power. But it is also an intimate story about family, friends and personal integrity. Towles is a master of leaving tiny little clues and off-hand references early in the novel, which turn out, by the end of the book, to have been extremely important. The only drawback I found in listening to the audiobook version is that there are so many complex Russian names that it would have been helpful to have “seen” them on a printed page to more clearly remember them all. Otherwise, I highly recommend the audiobook version of this marvelous novel.

[ official A Gentleman in Moscow page on the official Amor Towles web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Screening Room

formatdvdBatman TV Series

[DVD Batman]

The death, on June 9th, 2017, of actor Adam West has caused an outpouring of people remembering how much his portray of Batman (and his secret identity Bruce Wayne) meant to them over the past 50 years. Adam West and Burt Ward (as Robin the Boy Wonder) appeared for just three seasons in this comedic take on the popular DC Comics characters, from 1966 to 1969. The series, eponymously titled simply Batman, was a bright, garishly colorful affair. The characters, whether our traditional heroes, or their rogue’s gallery of bizarre villains, were played for obvious comic effect. Batman lectured Robin (and the villains) on morals, proper behavior and the intricacies of culture…but it wasn’t heavy-handed lecturing, and, when you stop to think about it, you may have been laughing at the portentiousness of it at the time, but wasn’t he right in the end.

Among the tributes to the late actor, I found it fascinating to realize that the later versions of Batman, from Michael Keaton’s first big-screen take, to the recent Christian Bale and Ben Affleck versions, all were much darker versions — the second of Bale’s trilogy even being titled The Dark Knight (also the title of one of comic publishing’s most legendary graphic novels). These were a long-term reaction against the comic nature of Adam West’s series…an attempt by the comics and movie producers to “reclaim” their character and rebrand him for a more troubled time period. But you wouldn’t have any Dark Knight, without Adam West’s “Bright Knight” to pave the way. The 1960s series is a pure and loving tribute to the comic books of a simpler time, and it is truly a pleasure to re-watch them and enjoy all the famous actors chewing up the scenery and having fun.

Frankly, I’d prefer my TV and movie superheroes to have a little more fun. Fortunately, I can relive that feeling with the original Batman!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try obscure TV shows such as Once a Hero, The Tick (the original live-action version with Patrick Warburton) and The Greatest American Hero, all of which had fun with the concepts of costumed heroes, even poking fun at the genre, while still paying tribute to it as well.] [DC Comics in recent years has published a Batman ’66 comic book. and tries to recapture the style, tone and feel of this classic TV series. Also, if you’re interested in the classic Batman series, I recommended both Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (a straight-to-DVD/BluRay movie, reuniting West and Ward with Julie Newmar as Catwoman), and Back to the Batcave, Adam West’s Batman memoir.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ Warner Brothers’ official Batman TV Serie web page ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdBatman (1989)

[DVD Batman]

Even though this was made in 1989, it does not feel dated at all. Also kind of strange to me was that I was expecting a superhero movie, because it’s Batman, but I got a detective story. I was not disappointed however, nor was it confusing, not having watched or read much Batman before. It starts when Bruce Wayne is just beginning his Batman life and the city does not know his name or his purpose. He jumps in to stop some criminals and tells them to tell everyone that the Batman intervened. The city of Gotham has a gang of criminals running the town and the soon to be Joker, played by Jack Nicholson, is involved in it. We get to actually see who Joker used to be and how he became who he’s known as now. Another aspect to the plot is a reporter who becomes romantically involved with Bruce Wayne and becomes more agitated and intrigued at his prolonged absences, as he’s off being Batman. There’s mystery, romance and secrets of the past in this movie which I feel really rounded it out and made it all the better to watch.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Batman: The Golden Age Vols 1 & 2 by Bill Finger, and Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Vols 1 & 2 by Whitney Ellsworth.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


formatdvdThe Light Between Oceans

[DVD Light]

We saw the movie video The Light between Oceans last week. It tells the story of a lighthouse keeper, living on an isolated island, who finds a baby in a boat near the shore. (There was a man in the boat who had died.) This all complicates the lives of the keeper and his wife. I felt is was really well done, and its the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a movie more than the book. (Before I always thought a book was better than the movie, yet this time, the book was good, the movie was Great!).

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Mr. Church, The Longest Ride or Lion] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Light Between Oceans Facebook site ]

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Recommended by Kathy H.
Walt Branch Library


formatdvdMidsomer Murders

[DVD Midsomer]

This is a contemporary murder mystery series set in fictional Midsomer county in rural England. Based on the original six “Chief Inspector Barnaby” book series by Caroline Graham (a seventh came out in 2004) this series has been regularly pumping out new episodes for British television since 1997.

We follow Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (starring John Nettles) and his Detective Sergeant as they work throughout the villages of Midsomer as we meet your standard British villagers, outlandish characters, landed gentry, and suspects of all demographics. This series provides good mysteries, is character-driven, and we also slowly learn about the private lives of our favorite members of the police force and the medical examiners.

Along the way, the Detective Sergeants are promoted and transferred so over the course of the series we meet a handful of DS staff. Around year 14, DCI Tom Barnaby retires and his younger cousin, DCI John Barnaby (starring Neil Dudgeon) takes his place.

At the rate of murders in Midsomer county, it’s as dangerous to live there as in Cabot Cover, Maine with Jessica Fletcher.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. When I initially began watching, I was overwhelmed with there being so many years to watch. Then all of a sudden I was done and didn’t know what to do with myself.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Prime Suspect (UK), Rosemary & Thyme (UK), Murder, She Wrote (US) or Diagnosis Murder (US).] [Also available in traditional print format.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ un-official Midsomer Murders fan web site ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated June 2017
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