THE MAN WHO WAS KILLED BY A GHOST TRAIN
Episode: Scared to Death
Who died?: A very grumpy man who didn't like hot dogs
Why was it odd?: Well, the murder weapon was a ghost train. Or, at least, that's how it very much seemed. First, a bit of context to the case. It was the day of the agricultural fair in Brokenwood, that grand annual event where the locals suddenly take a deep and passionate interest in tractors.
As well as thrilling displays of farming equipment, the fair featured sheep-shearing events, old school rides, and a circus strongman in leopard-skin lycra. In amongst it all was the event's chief coordinator, Harold Wilbury, a man with the perpetual expression of someone who's stubbed their toe and trodden on a Lego brick at exactly the same time. Huffing and puffing with irritation at everyone and everything, he was particularly unimpressed by local man Frodo's hot dogs, or Frodo Dogs ("You should call it a Fido Dog, tastes like a dog rolled in it").
But Harold's worries would soon be over. Taking a turn on the ghost rain to check it met with safety standards, he emerged at the end of the ride with a look of agonised panic on his face, and one cryptic word on his lips: "Ghost". He then snuffed it in front of shocked onlookers. Did the ride really scare him to death? Unlikely, since the only truly horrifying and disturbing aspect of the ghost train was the misspelling on its sign ("To late to get out now"). It seemed that sinister forces were at work, and we're not talking about dangling skeletons and rubber rats.
THE DEAD TORTURER IN THE CREEPY OLD HOSPITAL
Episode: The Dark Angel
Who died?: A mad scientist. Literally.
Why was it odd?: Being one of the murder capitals of the world (right up there with the crime-ridden terror-zone that is Midsomer), Brokenwood has seen corpses pop up in all kinds of circumstances. But... a dead man strapped to a gurney with ECT electrodes stuck to his head? Now that's just peculiar.
The victim was discovered by a couple of randy teenagers who'd snuck into an old, mental health hospital, presumably because nothing says romance like a derelict shell of a building that could feature on a special "squatters and serial killers" edition of Escape to the Country. Here, the luckless lovers happened across the electrode-adorned corpse, and called the police.
On arriving, the detectives saw the body had a toe-tag with the word "Torturer" emblazoned on it. "First or last name, do you think?" quipped Mike Shepherd. But the backstory of the body was no laughing matter, as it turned out he was a disgraced asylum superintendent who believed mental illness was a kind of biological infection, and was rather too fond of using electroconvulsive therapy on his patients. Was his murder an act of revenge by someone who's brain he'd toyed with, long ago?
THE CASE OF THE WRONG CORPSE
Episode: Over Her Dead Body
Who died?: Erm, it's complicated
Why was it odd?: Because someone turned into someone else after they died. The first someone was Declan O'Grady, a much-loved poet who, in true Dylan Thomas fashion, was as fond of boozing as he was of scribbling stanzas. Having succumbed to cancer, he addressed the people at his funeral via a specially taped message. All very poignant and bittersweet and lovely. Until his coffin accidentally fell from the back off the hearse and smashed open... revealing a dead woman where the dead Declan was supposed to be resting in peace.
ONE MURDER TO PUZZLE THEM ALL
Episode: The Black Widower
Who died?: A woman who strayed into Tolkien's Mirkwood
Why was it odd?: The crime scene featured a giant spider. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, was Mirkwood, Tolkien's fabled forest, and one of the many treats in store on Ray Neilson's "Lord of the Ringz" tour. OK, so this particular patch of trees in Brokenwood wasn't actually where the movies were shot, but Ray was happy to bluff and bluster around this inconvenient untruth to keep his herd of camera-snapping tourists happy.
The buzz was slightly killed by one cynical sightseer who questioned the accuracy of the tour ("They don't spell 'Rings' with a z"), but the big showstopper at the end was supposed to impress even the nay-sayers. The plan was to lead the group into the woods, where they'd be set upon by the big fake spider, and also see the web-wrapped corpse of Ray's wife, Debbie.
Only one snag: Debbie really was dead. And Ray didn't really seem all that fussed, being more concerned with continuing the tour than attending to his newly extinguished spouse. It looked a natural death due to a diabetic coma - with his customary tact and delicacy, Ray said his wife lived under a Sword of Damocles, or "Sword of Diabetes".
So was that really what happened, and the only crime committed was "the fleecing of non-English speaking tourists with the ruse that the Lord of the Rings was filmed in Brokenwood", as Kristin put it? Well, what do you think? Can one simply walk into Mordor?
Cue much chaos and confusion, with the poor funeral director being particularly flustered ("The fact is I delivered the deceased to the church and he turned into a woman!"). Mike Shepherd's first course of action was to have one of his customary chin-wags with the corpse ("You want to tell me how you got there?"), but she proved to be unwilling to explain herself. So just who was this dead interloper? And what had happened to Declan?