The UK’s recent hankering for a down-to-earth but idiosyncratic television detective is rooted deeply in our love for Scandinavian mystery dramas, or ‘Nordic noir’ as it is now dubbed. Some of these sleuths have been on our tellies far longer than others but each are all quintessentially British from the tea-sipping Miss Marple to the heavily patriotic Christopher Foyle.
Here we count down six of our favourite brainboxes that have graced our screens with their offbeat knack for investigating…
6. Miss Marple
Many actresses have taken on the role of the sweet and shrewd crime-solver but none as memorable as Joan Hickson. Hickson is the epitome of how Agatha Christie wrote the character: endearing, kind but altogether sharp-witted. Her ‘old woman’ façade worked charms when murder occurred in St. Mary Mead, as nobody would suspect her of being able to solve the crime.
Marple was obliging and often enjoyed solving the mystery; Hickson conveyed this wonderfully. Although others have taken over (there was a bizarre rumour back in 2011 that Hollywood bombshell Jennifer Garner would play the octogenarian in a Disney remake), Hickson is still one of the best incarnations of a British national treasure.
5. DCI Christopher Foyle
Foyle’s War recently reappeared on our screens with another series of rousing mysteries and I found myself even more captivated by Michael Kitchen’s character. Although Christopher Foyle doesn’t have a defining characteristic as a detective he is still a fascinating person to watch.
He has a very modern approach to issues like homosexuality and suicide (which were illegal in the Second World War) and is largely non-judgmental. This obviously makes him an ideal audience surrogate; to be relatable and contemporary in a series set in the WWII.
4. DI Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller
This dysfunctional pair only appeared in March in the hit series Broadchurch but the public are already obsessed with Alec and Ellie, the twosome that tracked down Danny Latimer’s killer.
David Tennant’s stoic demeanour and Ellie’s counteracting hospitableness made them a complete odd couple but they worked out who the murderer was in the end through both their respective traits.
3. DS Stella Gibson
Now this one is definitely new. The Fall’s Stella Gibson, played by a euphonious Gillian Anderson only disappeared off our screens last month. But the hunter and hunted remain prominently in my mind. Jamie Dornan should win a BAFTA for his performance as the debauched psycho, while Anderson’s Stella Gibson (and her steady flow of bottomless scotches and blouses) is one of TV’s most captivating detectives.
Her no-nonsense principles and habit of speaking her mind to her surrounding officers make Gibson a strong female figure. Series 2 is due next year and I’m sure we all look forward to the day Anderson returns to our screens with a brand new line of svelte black jackets and silken tops.
2. DCI John Luther
‘Flawed detectives’ are the norm in US crime dramas but back here in Britain we have John Luther, the unpredictable and dicey star of Neil Cross’ Luther. He’s strong-minded but fragile on the inside and he must be a real horror to work with.
Luther’s prone to solving cases by picking up on tiny details (movement of the hands, reactions, clothes – akin to Benedict Cumberbatch’s unorthodox methods as Sherlock; see below) and wows his colleagues in the process.
Idris Elba is a sublime actor; displaying Luther’s mood swings flawlessly and effortlessly. Elba is a favourite of many to become Doctor Who’s next Time Lord and I certainly think he could pull it off given his acting range.
1. Sherlock Holmes
It is safe to say that Benedict Cumberbatch is a risen star. He has gone from being a small hometown actor to a global movie star, recently appearing as the paragon of evil in Star Trek Into Darkness. But one of his many big breakthroughs was in 2010 when he debuted as BBC One’s modern Sherlock Holmes. Be sure to catch Series 3 on BBC One with DirecTV when it starts on Wednesday 1 January.
Viewers were instantly taken with the regenerated, and inherently abnormal detective; Sherlock has become a ratings and critical success. His quick-wittedness, alert mind and ignorance towards social niceties have distinguished this investigator from all others.
Who’s your favourite British TV detective ? Let us know below…
Watch the trailer for Luther Series 3…