There's no better time to dig into some great British detective dramas, with some strong female detective leads!
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Looking for a British detective series with a strong female detective?
As a dedicated Anglophile and watcher of British detective series, the pandemic has definitely given me plenty of time to venture into new mystery territory! And, as a subscriber to AcornTV and BritBox, I have access to all the British detective series an American can hope so. So, I've rounded up my "favourite" British detective series...with female detectives!
The top spot goes to Vera, the long-running series staring Brenda Blethyn as the fairly curmudgeonly DCI Vera Stanhope, a whiskey-drinking woman of a certain age forcing confessions out of all of Northern England. Come for Blethyn's performance and stay for the solvable, yet consuming, murder mysteries. The new season of Vera, Vera Season 11, is streaming now on BritBox!
How can I stream Vera?
2. Agatha Raisin
For a completely different vibe, try Agatha Raisin, following the titular character as she retired from her life in PR in London, to move to quaint, quintessentially Cotswolds village, only to find that murder abounds and she's the only one who can solve the case. Ashley Jensen is vivacious, quirky, and likable as the main character (you may recognize her from Extras) and the various trials and tribulations in her love life drive the non-mystery plot line.
How can I stream Agatha Raisin?
3. The Fall
The Fall is a must-watch for fans of personality-driven, rather than mystery-driven, cop drama, staring Gillian Anderson as DS Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as her criminal adversary (not a spoiler).
How can I stream The Fall?
4. The Bletchley Circle
For fans of period piece mystery, The Bletchley Circle made a serious splash when it debuted in the UK in 2012. Set in the early 1950s, it follows the mystery-solving feats of women who had worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park in England during WWII (the same wartime service as the real grandmother of The Duchess of Cambridge). Just a heads up- it's not quirky like Agatha Raisin, and is actually surprisingly macabre at times. Fans of British TV will recognize all 4 of the stars: Anna Maxwell Martin (Becoming Jane, Death Comes to Pemberley), Rachel Stirling (Detectorists), Sophie Rundle (Bodyguard, Peaky Blinders), and Julie Graham (Shetland, Queens of Mystery).
Though only renewed for 2 seasons, there is now a spin-off based in the States.
How can I stream The Bletchley Circle?
5. Happy Valley
A Netflix original, Happy Valley wasn't on my radar until relatively recently. Sarah Lancashire is excellent as Catherine Cawood, seeking the capture of the man who she believes killed her daughter, and you'll recognize Siobhan Finneran from Downton Abbey. The Yorkshire setting is haunting and eerie; the plotline dark. James Norton is excellent in a very different role from Grantchester.
How can I stream Happy Valley?
Another Netflix original, Marcella follows its titular character as she returns to police work after taking time out with family. Her dedication to the job becomes paramount, and as time passes, we learn that her home life wasn't so great after all...and fits of anger lead to blackouts at extremely inconvenient moments. Anna Friel is *excellent* in what is surely a challenging and exhausting role. Fans of Midsomer Murders will recognize DS Ben Jones in the first season.
How can I stream Marcella?
7. Miss Marple
The most recent Miss Marple reboot, now just called Marple, based on Agatha Christie's original books, is no less good for its age. Small towns, seaside hotels, and classic 30's glamor, with Miss Marple serving up all the answers at the end in a palatial mansion- what more could we want?
The three detective shows below came to mind while I was making this list. Though the female detectives aren't the leads, I think they steal the show:
Unsurprisingly, Olivia Colman is excellent in the role that transitioned her from comedy to serious pieces. Broadchurch tells the story of a picturesque English seaside town, torn apart by the disappearance of young boy. Colman starts alongside David Tenant.
How can I stream Broadchurch?
Despite the title, I think DS Annie Cabot (Andrea Lowe) and DI Helen Morton (Caroline Catz) truly make this show worth watching (no slight to Stephen Tompkinson).
DO NOT GOOGLE THIS SHOW. The main spoiler comes up in the FAQ.
How can I stream DCI Banks?
The Strike Series
If you've been following the blog, then you know that I am obsessed with the C.B. Strike series, both on TV and in audiobook. Robin Ellacott is the trainee detective, under the tutelage of Cormoran Strike, private detective extraordinaire, but it's only a matter of time until Robin takes on her own case.
How can I stream C.B. Strike?
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Hope you enjoy these great British detective shows with female leads! And if you love all things British, check out:
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