The Brits have the art of the murder mystery down to a science - tune into these top, easily streamable picks and see them in action!
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Looking for a great British detective series?
If you're reading this post, then I'll assume you're like me. If I'm not in the middle of a cozy mystery audiobook, then I'm searching for my next one. If I'm not in the grip of my newest streaming murder mystery, then I'm reading exactly these kinds of posts!
The good news is, as streaming services increase, it's become so easy to get all of the best of English murder mysteries, even over here across the pond.
So grab a cup of tea, your knitting, and your warmest blanket - it's time for a bit of *murder.*
And don't forget to check out my lists of Best Shows on Acorn TV, Best Shows on Britbox, and British Detective Shows with Female Leads!
The Classic: Midsomer Murders
The gold standard of English mystery shows, early episodes of Midsomer Murders certainly show their age these days, but that's a huge part of their charm. Hour and a half long episodes make more time to dig into a story, and the proliferation of towns in fictional Midsomer, in and around the 'biggest' city of Causton, certainly have their fair share of ... murder.
Fresh off its 20th season and well-established into its second Detective Inspector Barnaby (and his fifth detective sergeant), Midsomer Murders isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The fact they keep coming up with interesting plots is frankly impressive.
Wondering how to stream Midsomer Murders? In the US, it's currently available through Acorn TV on Amazon.
The Revamp: Sherlock
Perhaps the opposite of Midsomer in many ways, yet still built on the classic concept of the great detecting duo, the modern interpretation of Sherlock, staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, is a dark, yet fun, and highly-award winning installation of the English classic.
Finally ending in 2017, its 4 seasons contain plenty of banter and enjoyable allusions to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories and novels. It's available via Amazon streaming (for an extra charge) and recently on Netflix.
The Darker Side: Broadchurch
In the genre of the small town English murder, Broadchurch is certainly dark, but an absolute masterpiece. Discovering the grisly death of one of the town's young boys, Olivia Colman (of The Favourite, The Crown (soon, they keep telling us!), and Peep Show fame) shines in this brooding tale of deceit and despicable behavior, as it tears apart an English holiday village. Her banter with her superior, former Doctor Who star David Tennant, lightens the mood. It's available on Amazon (extra charge) and Netflix.
A Swedish Touch: Wallander
Yes, Wallander is about Sweden, set in Sweden, and based on a book by a Swedish author, so why does it belong on this list? Well, if you like Broadchurch and Shetland, you'll love Wallander. It was produced by the BBC and stars some of the greatest British actors of a generation, so it's on the list! Kenneth Branaugh stars as the titular character, balancing his personal and professional life, and solving complex (and occasionally disturbing) murders set in picturesque Swedish backgrounds.
With veteran star David Warner as Wallander's ailing father, and Tom Hiddleston as his snarky subordinate - I promise you'll enjoy. Available on BritBox through Amazon (extra charge) and HBO Max.
A More Modern Take: Marcella
I debated whether to put Marcella on this list - as it's definitely more of a non-traditional show. Struggling with severe anger issues, Marcella is prone to blackouts at inconvenient times - leaving her unsure of her role in the murders she's meant to be solving. Interestingly, former Midsomer star Jason Hughes (D.S. Jones) has a supporting role. A Netflix original. A third series premiers in 2019.
A Bit Grittier: Happy Valley
Another Netflix original, Happy Valley was a recent find for me, though it premiered in 2014. Reminiscent of Broadchurch, Sarah Lancashire works to solve a deeply personal crime in gritty Northern England, opposite the incredibly sinister James Norton - you'll never look at Grantchester the same way again.
Power Detective: The Fall
Continuing the theme of strong female detectives paired with guys who I can never look at the same way again thanks to their marvelous acting skills in terrifying roles, Gillian Anderson opposite Jamie Dornan is excellent in the Northern Irish drama.
Dornan shines as Paul Spector in The Fall - guy next door turned crazy serial killer, who tries to hold his world together...while he continues committing his heinous crimes, with Anderson's D.S. Gibson in hot pursuit. The three seasons under its belt, wrapping up in 2016, it's a satisfying, if disturbing watch. It's available for streaming on Netflix, or for purchase on Amazon.
All About Scotland: Shetland
Shetland is one of my 'favourite' detective shows of all time - the story of DI Perez, returning home to the Scottish island chain after the death of his wife. BAFTA-winning Douglas Henshall's DI Perez is supported by a strong team of a supporting cast. A fifth series is in the works. It was on Netflix until recently - now it's on Britbox.
Caribbean Flair: Death in Paradise
Though it may not sound like, it if you love Midsomer Murders, I really would recommend Death in Paradise. Death in Paradise is the brain child of one of David's Mitchell's college friends, Robert Thorogood.
Death in Paradise is quirky and fun, showcasing the fictional Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, with an enjoyable mix of supporting characters. Interesting, the show has weathered the departure of not one, but two, leading D.I.s, in addition to most of the supporting cast, over the years, and lived to tell the tale. It's actually a joint U.K. and French production, leading to a lot of interplay between the two cultures. It is available through Britbox.
Books into T.V.: C.B. Strike
The television adaptation of J.K. Rowling's series staring Cormoran Strike, C.B. Strike is a quick watch - multi-part interpretations of the books. The story of a wounded veteran's attempt to set-up a detective agency in London, with the help of a surprisingly adept temp-turned-(maybe more!?), and solving phenomenal mysteries along the way, it has much of the charm of the Harry Potter series, without perhaps the literal magic.
C.B. Strike is a bit harder to access than some of the others on this list - it's available with a Cinemax subscription, which is obtainable through Amazon.
My new favourite: Vera
Vera is new to me, but certainly not new. Going on its 11th season, Brenda Blethyn stars as the enchantingly grouchy Vera, a quirky, stubborn, yet endearing, female detective of a certain age, trundling around Northern England in her crumbling Land Rover. Episodes are split between Acorn and BritBox, just to drive viewers crazy.
Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you'll enjoy these shows as much as I did! Feel free to drop your "favourites" in the comments! And don't forget to sign-up for the blog newsletter and get all of my Anglophile musings delivered straight to your inbox!
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