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MURDOCH MYSTERIES, SERIES 7. This award-winning Canadian television series of crime dramas seems actually to have at least some roots in the United Kingdom, as ITV, a British creator of TV material, gets a producing credit. It’s an early-days police procedural, set in Toronto, in the late 1800s, to as late as 1901 that provides a good-humored twist on crime procedurals. Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) pushes the boundaries of Victorian-era criminal science using then radical forensic techniques for the time, including fingerprinting and trace evidence, to solve some of the city's most baffling, gruesome murders. He is a kind, soft-spoken, religious, honest,hard-working and disciplined sort of man, by no means one of the roistering detectives we so frequently see today. In his work, Murdoch is ably assisted by coroner Dr. Julia Ogden and Constable George Crabtree as he introduces such concepts as finger marks and lie detecting machines. The detective has in this the support of his somewhat doubtful superior, Inspector Brackenreid, though at times, even Brackenreid finds Murdoch's methods - and claims – somewhat overwhelming.
And, even though he is occupied with enforcing the law, Murdoch often crosses paths with famous figures of the time, including, in earlier series, Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini, and H.G. Wells, and in the current series, such figures as Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Emma Goldman and Sherlock Holmes – apparently not always entirely fictional. The series is based on the popular novels by Maureen Jennings, was seen on public television and on Ovation as The Artful Detective. The entertainment is available both in streaming format and on DVD. The box set consists of 18 episodes on five discs, running approximately 792 minutes plus 109 minutes of bonus programming including making Murdoch featurettes and a photo gallery. And, thank goodness, subtitles, as some of the local dialects of Canada are on display. I received this as a review copy.
The Montreal-born Bisson, a handsome man, plays the gently pious Montreal-born Murdoch, who crosses himself when he comes to a death scene, and understands that, as a French Canadian in bigoted Toronto, city of the Family Compact, he will never be promoted. He and the supporting actors around him create an entertaining, warm ensemble. Thomas Craig, born in Yorkshire, whose natives are famed for their blunt, bluff nature, plays the blunt, bluff Insp. Thomas Brackenreid. The lovely Helene Joy, born in Perth, Australia, portrays Murdoch’s on again/off again love interest, Dr. Julia Ogden, formerly the coroner, now a psychiatrist, a character who is, unfortunately, somewhat bland. The same could never be said of the Newfoundland-born standup comic Jonny Harris, who plays the highly entertaining Newfoundland-born Constable George Crabtree with his own native accent, and who seems to be getting more and more screen time as the series progresses: one episode of this series brings him back to his native province, which was apparently not yet a full province back then. Georgina Reilly, born in the Home Counties, U.K. plays the pretty and lively Dr. Emily Grace, Dr. Ogden’s replacement as coroner, and Crabtree’s on-again/off-again love interest.
The episodes are:
Episode 1: Murdoch Ahoy
It's Victoria Day and the SS Keewatinis is about to embark on her maiden voyage—but not before a potentially deadly threat arises. Detective Murdoch and Chief Inspector Brackenreid are called to investigate; Murdoch decides to stay aboard to keep an eye on the passengers, including Dr. Ogden.
Episode 2: Tour de Murdoch
Murdoch decides to participate in a bicycle race; doesn't expect one of his competitors to end up dead. Meanwhile, Julia, while trying to sell her recently-deceased husband's house, comes home to an unexpected visitor.
Episode 3: The Filmed Adventures of Detective William Murdoch
A man is shot dead at the premiere of a moving picture boasting new sound technology; no one notices until the lights come back on. Murdoch must delve into the burgeoning world of Canadian film to solve the murder. The director decides to make a film starring Murdoch himself.
Episode 4: Return of Sherlock Holmes
Murdoch is called to the scene of a murder only to find another detective already there, the great Sherlock Holmes—or at least someone calling himself the beloved detective. Another man is murdered in a similar fashion, a third body is uncovered.
Episode 5: Murdoch of the Living Dead
A woman is found dead in a river; Murdoch’s suspicion falls upon her husband. The man shows no emotion; Murdoch is confused by an admission from the man's daughter. Murdoch’s suspicion grows when he discovers that the man's neighbors are afraid to talk.
Episode 6: Murdochophobia
To treat her patients' intense phobias, Julia has been using a precursor of behaviorism, a new method that exposes them to the objects of their fear, in hopes that their terrors will diminish over time. However, after a patient falls out of her window to her death, Murdoch's investigation forces him to confront some of his own fears.
Episode 7: Loch Ness Murdoch
The middle of a heat wave; a woman turns up dead on the beach of Lake Ontario. It’s discovered that she was a contestant at a ‘purity’ beauty pageant; the cops’ attention turns to her competition. But why does Brackenreid keep talking about a sea monster?
Episode 8: Republic of Murdoch
When the body of a Newfoundland man is found, Inspector Crabtree —from Newfoundland himself—chases the only suspect but can't quite keep up. It becomes clear that no answers will be found in Toronto; Crabtree and Murdoch travel to the colony to solve the mystery.
Episode 9: A Midnight Train to Kingston
Murdoch and the team are bringing their nemesis James Gillies to the city of Kingston to execute him. But plans for the prisoner’s transfer are upended; the cops must scramble, and Gillies must be put in the same car as passengers.
Episode 10: Murdoch in Ragtime
The director of a vocal group is found dead on the docks; Murdoch turns to the rest of the choir in search of answers. He visits the jazz club where they perform, discovers the group has some secrets to hide.
Episode 11: Journey to the Center of Toronto
A jewelry shop is robbed; the only clue is a hole in the ground that could not have been dug by hand. Hours later another jewelry shop is robbed in the same manner. Meanwhile, a scientist at the museum is sharing her research. She believes an intelligent species lives in the hollows of the earth, a belief which was apparently then widespread.
Episode 12 Unfinished Business
A man on his deathbed confesses to murder; Murdoch and the team find the bones of his victim. However, after Dr. Grace examines the remains, there seem to be some inconsistencies in the man's story. Murdoch and Julia partner to solve the crime; as they delve deeper, the mystery begins to resemble a cold case from their past.
Episode 13: The Murdoch Sting
The president of the Canadian Bank goes missing, along with his mysterious fiancée Cassie Chadwick. Reports come in of multiple Cassie Chadwicks in the area; it seems that this case could be mistaken identity. Crabtree and Murdoch find themselves grappling with romantic challenges as the team concocts a scheme to find the truth, for they are familiar with the work of this Cassie Chadwick, whoever she is.
Episode 14: Friday the 13th, 1901
Julia, Emily, and several friends weekend in a cabin on a secluded island to celebrate a bachelorette party. One of the party is suddenly found dead. Other deaths follow. Back home in Toronto, Crabtree challenges a romantic rival to a curling match.
Episode 15: The Spy Who Came Up to the Cold
The president of the United States is shot at Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition. While President McKinley barely clings to life, Murdoch looks for those behind the assassination attempt.
Episode 16: Kung Fu Crabtree
Chinese officials are in town searching for rebels who have fled to Toronto. At a dinner with local police, one Chinese official is murdered; Crabtree is put on the case. But as he gets to know the prime suspect, the constable wonders if the Chinese is innocent.
Episode 17: Blast of Silence
A big-name city industrialist is found atop a telephone pole with a noise-activated bomb strapped to him; Murdoch does all he can to keep the area quiet. The mayor of the town is found in a similar situation; Murdoch knows he must find the culprit before these men become martyrs to progress.
Episode 18: The Death of Dr. Ogden
Crabtree and Brackenreid are on the case to find the killer of a talented competitive puzzle-solver. However, as no clear suspect emerges, the pair is forced to muddle through. Meanwhile, Julia visits her father, only to learn that he has passed away before she could get there.
I have previously reviewed Murdoch Mysteries Series 1 and 2 on their respective pages, and loved them. The earlier series do offer some backstory, but it is possible to pick the production up at any point. Murdoch is an interesting character: troubled, yet talented, while the interplay of the characters at the cop shop is touching and entertaining. The turn of the twentieth century environment seems well presented, in clothing, social life, standards, interiors, transportation, the mix of automobile and horse-drawn vehicles on the roads. Highly recommended.