Ahead of the season four premiere of The Brokenwood Mysteries, Alex Casey speaks to two of the show’s stars about their favourite murders.
Everyone wants their friends to throw them a nice surprise birthday picnic, but nobody wants the party to be crashed by a mangled skydiver who never quite got his parachute open. Really puts you off your cheese and crackers, the ol’ bloodied corpse surprise. This is just another normal birthday in Brokenwood, the fictional New Zealand country town in The Brokenwood Mysteries that is better known for its elaborate, endless murder mystery cases rather than gumboot throwing or big L&P bottles.
Even in this housing market, you still couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to set up shop in Brokenwood. We return to the idyllic, murderous town on Prime tonight at 8.30pm for the fourth season of The Brokenwood Mysteries, New Zealand’s tongue-in-cheek answer to Midsomer Murders. In each feature-length episode, Detectives Mike Shepherd, Kristin Sims and Sam Breen work to solve a different grisly death with an assortment of guest stars and local nods. All I’ll say is: Louise Wallace from The Real Housewives of Auckland.
Over the last three seasons, each murder has seemed more extravagant than the last, so I wanted to talk to some people on the inside about why so many poor Brokenwood folk meet such gnarly ends. Is it a curse? “Nah, we can’t even blame Jacinda for it because she wasn’t even in government yet,” says Fern Sutherland, who plays Detective Kristin Sims on the show. Nic Sampson, also known as Detective Breen, has an alternative theory, “Maybe there’s 1080 in the water? Everyone seems pretty unhappy apart from Mrs Marlowe who runs the sewing circle.”
Whatever it is that is making the locals so murderous, they are hot on the tail of Ferndale, New Zealand’s most lethal fictional town and the setting for Shortland Street. This is a place where ‘death by candlestick’ is a matter of public health and safety. “I think Ferndale is the more dangerous place, statistically,” says Sampson, “you’ve got people exploding, people snatching bodies – it’s bloody rampant there.” At least in Brokenwood, their crime team is a lot more efficient. “They spent months on The Ferndale Strangler” says Sutherland, “we solve murders in three days – it’s easy.”
When it comes to the elaborate murders themselves, The Brokenwood Mysteries dabbles in the surreal. Last season, a dead woman was found wrapped in a spider’s web during an unauthorised ‘Lord of the Ringz’ tour. In season one, a stag do goes deer hunting and they emerge from the woods with the wrong dead stag. “I like my murders dark and twisted,” says Sutherland, explaining that her favourite Brokenwood crime scene was a body tied to rugby goal posts. “The dead Santa in the chimney was pretty amazing,” says Sampson, “but I really liked when the wine critic drowned in a vat of wine. What a delicious way to go.”
With 12 cases under their belt, the Brokenwood team have assembled some sage advice on how to avoid ending up on Gina’s slab in the morgue. “You might think that joining a debate club, or kite flying will be harmless enough,” says Sampson, “but somebody will still find a way to murder you in a poetic way with your hobbies.” Don’t let the sleepy small town facade fool you: Brokenwood remains rife with violence and rage, even in its fourth season. “Lock your door,” says Sutherland “look over your shoulder, you’ll never be safe, so never relax.” Or, as both suggested, you could always just join the police force. As we know, detectives never seem to be out of work in Brokenwood.
The Brokenwood Mysteries returns tonight at 8.30pm on Prime
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.