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It's No Secret 'The Brokenwood Mysteries' Offers Solid Viewing Pleasure
December 5, 2016  | By David Hinckley

There’s nothing like a bucolic little village with a stunning rate of sordid murders, as PBS’s Grantchester has proven, and that’s confirmed again with The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Brokenwood, a New Zealand series, comes to the U.S. through Acorn (www.acorn.tv) and the third season arrives Monday.

As is often the case with overseas programs, “series” is a flexible concept. In the case of Brokenwood, the third season consists of four episodes, each two hours long and tackling a separate case.

The connecting thread, besides the fact these killings all happen in a picturesque little town where the biggest crime issue should be unpaid parking tickets, is the police team of Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea, top) and Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland, top).

They’re a bit of an odd couple, naturally, but they’re both reasonable, cordial and likeable – in contrast to, say, the snappish detective David Tennant played in Broadchurch.

Like other cops before him, Shepherd has relocated from a big city to a small town in hopes of dialing down the stress of the job. The death of his wife was part of it, too, and over the first two seasons it was clear he was having some trouble recalibrating his life.

Shepherd’s style is a bit Columbo-ish, approaching suspects as if he doesn’t know much of anything and would just like their help in figuring it out.

Sims sometimes takes a more direct approach, though she is the junior partner and defers to Shepherd. As we enter the third season she’s still not completely sure what to make of him, or what makes him tick. She seems content to assemble that puzzle one piece at a time.

Acorn releases the four new episodes on consecutive Mondays, and the fourth is the Christmas episode, though it actually drops on Dec. 26.

In that one, the town mayor is found dead while still dressed in his Santa Claus suit. That’ll put a dent in the holidays.

The first mystery is a bit more timeless, revolving around a couple who run a sort of tourist scam in which visitors pay them for a “Lord of the Rings” excursion through the local woodlands.

At the end of the tour, the wife is wrapped up in a cocoon and pretends to be dead, providing the tourists a last gasp of shock.

Only on this one tour, it turns out she really is dead.

Shepherd and Sims first must determine that it’s a murder and then determine who did it.

They have a number of candidates, since most of the people they encounter are unhelpful, unpleasant or both – including, for starters, the husband.

Whatever else Brokenwood has to offer, it’s not a good advertisement for the legendary warmth of small towns.

Though maybe when you have Brokenwood’s murder rate, you lose some of that openness.

In any case, The Brokenwood Mysteries doesn’t break any new television ground. It just spins a good crime yarn well and provides several solid hours of entertainment for those chilly winter evenings by the telly.

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