NIGHT OF THE STAG
© ITV/Mark Bourdillon
A VAT inspector goes missing as he hunts for an illicit cider still responsible for brewing The Beast, a potent local hooch. At the Midsomer Abbas spring fayre which celebrates its friendship with Midsomer Herne, Barnaby and Jones sample the local cider, while temperance preacher Norman Grigor calls on residents to repent of their drunken ways.
Suddenly, Barnaby is violently ill as the body of missing man Peter Slim is found floating in the cider vat. Pathologist Kate Wilding says the victim's injuries look like he was shaken to death by a giant.
Slim had arranged to meet an informant on the night he died, and beekeeper Byron Street tells Barnaby the woods were mayhem as farmers lit 'smudge pots' or oil burners to stop frost from damaging the apple blossom and ruining their cider crops.
Orchard owner Silas Trout, a giant of a man, is discovered distilling The Beast but before the detectives can discover who else is involved, the temperance mob arrives. Silas is arrested, and Barnaby discovers Rev Grigor is an alcoholic, once addicted to The Beast.
Slim's car is found near a blood-covered staff and a satchel containing statements from a Swiss bank account. Nearby is a cider mill owned by Anthony Devereux complete with a tree shaker - a large hydraulic arm used to harvest apples. It's the murder weapon.
Dyed-in-the-wool countryman Samuel Quested, of The Stag pub, tells fellow publican Will Green of The Apple Tree in Midsomer Herne that he wants to restore an ancient rite - 'the Stag'. Chloe Baker, who runs dog kennels with her daughter Esme, agrees.
Jones links the Swiss bank account to Devereux and he admits import fraud but denies murder. His assistant Alice Quested, Samuel's daughter, says she copied the bank documents for Slim. Meanwhile, Silas visits Rev Grigor and offers him a drink of The Beast. Grigor succumbs to temptation and goes on a drunken rampage.
Barnaby discovers Slim and Esme were secretly married - only Alice and local vicar Rev Walker knew. Then Barnaby finds some frost-damaged blossom at Quested's orchard. In prison, Quested offers Devereux an alibi in return for partnership of his cider mill.
It's the night of the Stag - when men go in search of women from another village in order to 'refresh the gene pool'. The detectives discover Rev Walker dead in his vestry and their car tyres punctured, meaning they'll have to chase the stag party by foot.
Quested, agricultural workers Smudgepot and Wilberforce and the rest of the hunting party head through the countryside in search of women but when Quested arrives at Chloe's cottage it's not her that he's after. Can the detectives cross the hill in time to stop another act of violence?
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