In this very first episode of "Midsomer Murders", DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) and DS Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) are called in to investigate the death of an elderly spinster, Emily Simpson, (Renee Asherson) a former school teacher who lived alone in a little cottage in the village of 'Badger's Drift'.
At first, it is thought that she died of natural causes but DCI Barnaby soon has reason to believe that foul play was involved when he interviews her neighbour and friend, Lucy Bellringer (Rosalie Crutchley) who is absolutely convinced that Emily was murdered because of her strange behaviour just a short time before she died. Upon hearing that the two elderly ladies were having a 'contest' to see who would be the first to find a particularly rare orchid in the local woods, and having Miss Simpson's flower collecting basket and markers found strewn hapazzardly in the woods, the investigators soon wonder whether or not she may have seen something in the woods she shouldn't have and had been murdered because of it.
News of Miss Simpson's death spreads quickly and everyone appears shocked and distressed by the news, particularly the very strange mother and son duo of Iris and Dennis Rainbird. (Elizabeth Spriggs and Richard Cant.) Dennis is the local undertaker who, judging by his luxury car, is doing very well for himself indeed. His mother, a local gossip, has theories of her own to pass on to police, but, then again, she doesn't miss much as she has a very high window and high-powered binoculars from which she can see everything that goes on the village around her. A charming pastime for an older lady, and an excellent way to blackmail local residents when she spies them doing something they shouldn't be.
When Iris and her son are found brutually murdered in their home and ledgers detailing all of their extortion attempts are found, Barnaby and Troy realise that Mrs. Rainbird has spotted something deadly - and paid the price for it. It soon transpires that there are many possible suspects in the Rainbird deaths, for Iris's blackmail had a very wide reach, but Barnaby still feels that there is a connection between these deaths and that of Emily Simpson.
When a young local artist, Michael Lacey (Jonathan Firth) is suspected of having some part in the crimes, Barnaby and Troy must work at unravelling a very complex web involving a lot of people and some very dark secrets.
An excellent episode to begin this fantastic long-running series. The script and acting are superb with fine performances all round. This is one not to be missed!