Welcome to the wacky world of Midsomer Murders, where traditional murder weapons just won't do. Here are some of the most memorable methods of dispatch, Midsomer-style (in random order)...
Death By... Caravan (Death's Shadow)
Or more precisely, a burning caravan. The pilot episode introduced us to smarmy property guy, David Whitely. He returns in Death's Shadow with a view to selling the property bought from his former boss – complete with 'inspired' insults to Troy. “Sergeant Joy!” “Sergeant Boy!” That's some gentle comedy there, buddy...
It's the property that could be the motive behind his grisly demise. Some rapscallion has locked the estate manager in his temporary accommodation and doused the caravan with petrol, setting it ablaze. ITV3's regular repeats of Death's Shadow hacks the sequence to pieces, omitting Whitely's final anguished cries. But maybe those pesky censors had the right idea, given that Whitely practically gives the identity of the killer away. “God in Heaven!” he bellows. “WHYYYYYYYY????” I'm not saying a spoilery word, but if you go back and watch it, you'll know who the murderer is in a heartbeat.
Death By... Log Lorry (Faithful Unto Death)
Faithful Unto Death plods along quite amiably for the first 45 minutes or so. About the only threat of danger is a buried shepherd's pie in a garden – which only amuses a doped up Barnaby (he's been at some wacky baccy sweet treats provided by a pair of apparently harmless old codgers). It's Midsomer at its most genteel. That is until a killer comes up with the most convoluted way of bumping off dowdy spinster Brenda Buckley (a woman who gives her car a pet name and who dresses like she's graduated from the Su Pollard Academy Of Fashion).
Let's get this straight. Brenda's seen something she really shouldn't have seen, while rushing off to warn Shepherd's Pie Man. So the killer somehow rushes off to snaffle a great big lorry full of logs, drive it into the middle of the woods, rush back to follow Brenda, whose car is then shunted into the vehicle at top speed. It's a murder that stretches the credulity to the limit.
But the sequence works because poor old Brenda – weird as she may be – wouldn't hurt a fly. She's one of the least deserving victims in the show, and her off-screen decapitation visibly rattles Barnaby. “You don't wanna look at that,” he mutters to a curious Troy.
Death By... Pop Culture (Death Of The Small Coppers)
If you have the brains and intellectual know-how, chances are you'll get into an elite IQ society called Circulus. It's headed by lofty big brain, Grady Palmerston (brilliantly played by Peter Egan), who relishes putting down lesser intellects with caustic remarks which are so razor sharp, they could shave Santa Claus' beard in 60 seconds flat.
But Palmerston ain't so clued up when it comes to pop culture. And that's his downfall. Drugged and shoved into a lethal looking device that comprises a quiz screen, a remote control system and a helmet that delivers painful electric shocks, Palmerston is forced to answer questions about modern day TV, pop music... the lot. With mounting wrong answers, the level of electrocution gets worse, until poor old Palmerston's ticker gives out.
Talk about failing to make the Grady...
Death By... Cheese (Schooled In Murder)
Martine McCutcheon may have thought she'd get an easier ride than in EastEnders. Not so. Her feisty character, Debbie Moffett, is the first victim in Schooled in Murder. Having confronted her daughter's snooty prep school bosses for kicking her out next term, Debbie proves that she's a force to be reckoned with.
That is, until she agrees to meet a mysterious unseen figure at the cheese factory where she works. Whoever it is doesn't mean Debbie well, as she's first felled by a shelf full of cheese, and then lamped around the head with a full round of whiffy Midsomer Blue.
Whoever it is must be crackers – Martine's run-in with the world of Midsomer really is a Brie-f Encounter.
Death By... 1950s Music (Dark Autumn)
Just like the 'Duh Duh!' music in Jaws, the sinister madman of Dark Autumn heralds his attacks with a recognisable burst of music. The jaunty parping brass of The Creep instantly lets the viewer knows that death's on the way.
And it frequently ain't pretty – especially with the first two victims, Dave Cutler and Debbie Shortland, who are near decapitated with a formidable looking machete.
But it does beg the question – why does the killer march around with a cumbersome looking old-fashioned tape recorder? Granted, he's obsessed with the 1950s, but he's drawing attention to himself by stomping around with blaring loud music that even the deaf old church organist biddy could hear from a long way away.
Death By... Wine (Hidden Depths)
Two for the price of one, and also two of the most imaginatively outrageous murders in the entire history of Midsomer. Both involve wine, with two quiz team mates falling foul of elaborately staged killing devices.
The first of these, pompous solicitor, Otto Benham, is pinned down by croquet hoops in his garden. He's then pelted by wine bottles launched by a giant Roman-age catapult. Aside from being one of the most inventive death scenes in the show, it's one that's tinged with a healthy dollop of black humour. His long-suffering wife, Bernie, is forced to look on while the unseen killer gets trigger-happy. But instead of protesting and screaming, she merely advises the killer to move to a better angle in order to finish off her tyrant of a husband for good!
Otto's co-quizzer, Mike Spicer, is a cheesy former gameshow host. Robert Daws is hilarious as this vain has-been, to the point where Spicer gives himself a Fonzie-style “Heeeeyyyy!” expression in the mirror. Mike does get a comeback of sorts, but it's the most perverse version of telly torture imaginable. Our creative assassin has come up with a hollowed out TV that fits over a knocked out Spicer's head. Once awake, Spicer is forced to answer questions for his life, but these wrong answers mean that more expensive wine is poured into the TV. As the wine level rises, a camcorder records Spicer's humiliating death, with the hapless host eventually succumbing to slow wine drowning.
Death By... Ghost Train (The Sword Of Guillaume)
Or The One With The Two Barnabys.
Tom has a family reunion with John (enjoying a dummy run of sorts for his future tenure as Midsomer's main man of the law), while an annual beano from Midsomer to Brighton goes horribly wrong.
In any other environment, a ride on the ghost train wouldn't get worse than a serious attack of the frights and possible pant pooping. This being Midsomer Murders, though, a ghost train ride for arrogant property developer Hugh Dalgleish (Tim McInnerny on typically good form) results in the poor sod getting his head chopped off.
While Midsomer Murders episodes frequently have a high body count, they don't tend to feature overt horror. The Sword Of Guillaume bucks this trend with graphically lingering shots of Dalgleish's headless corpse slowly trundling out of the ghost train into view. It's delightfully gruesome stuff, matched by the later sight of the next victim, Jenny Russell's decapitated head leering blankly into space while plonked strategically on a chest of drawers.
Death By... Wild Boar (Wild Harvest)
What's this? Someone talked to death by haunted pencil, Jacob Rees Mogg? Oh, death by boar, not bore... gotcha.
This is Midsomer tackling another horror movie trope – the vicious wild animal on the loose, stalking and killing its prey. It does it very well, as herbalist Lizzy Thornfield (Hayley Mills) stumbles upon the half-eaten corpse of grumpy landowner Martin Strickland. Someone's smothered the man in truffle oil, and tied him to a tree, leaving him as boar bait.
Death By... Comic Book (Drawing Dead)
As the Carver Valley Comic Book Festival kicks into gear, ex-model Francesca Lounds is slowly waking up from her two-year coma. However, a rude awakening awaits Francesca as a creepy masked figure suffocates her and shoves a crumpled comic book in her gasping gob.
The last couple of years have seen a big return to form for the show. Drawing Dead is a witty and intriguing episode that boasts some memorably nasty moments (there's another sticky end for one character involving some kind of paper shredder) and a Ghostface-style killer, complete with mask and hooded cloak.
Death By... Relish (Sauce For The Goose)
It's really not Dexter Lockwood's day. Plummer & Sons may be scoring high on its relish sales, but it's not so hot on health and safety, as Dexter finds out to his cost.
This is an entry that scrapes into the Top 10 because of its overkill – if you'll pardon the expression. First of all, Dexter's stalked and then crushed to death by a forklift truck bearing a pallet of relish. The luckless chap is then thrown into a bottle sterilising machine, and cooked by a brace of steam at a temperature of 200 degrees centigrade. I've heard of wanting to make sure that the victim is no more, but this is taking murder to new extremes.