From the classics such as Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie’s iconic crime novels, murder mysteries have been a staple literary genre for centuries.
It’s thanks to their episodic nature, captivating characters and crime scenes that they soon became the perfect fit for television. From iconic retellings to lighthearted fun, here are our favourite TV shows that encompass everything that’s great about the famed mystery genre.
If you stumbled upon the rural logging town of Twin Peaks you’d just think you had found another small American nook home to idyllic mountain peaks, charming local characters and a loveable diner at the hub of it all. But as you begin to unpeel the ornate surroundings and delve deeper into the inner workings of each character’s minds you’ll notice cracks. Cracks that are about to be shattered, piece by piece, in an epic 48 part narrative (18 of which were filmed 25 years after the original two series premiered).
The year is 1989 when a young high schooler Laura Palmer is found washed up on the stoney shore of Twin Peaks. FBI agent Dale Cooper is sent to try and solve the mystery of her murder. Throughout each episode Cooper, along with the help from the loveable Twin Peaks sheriff department, try to solve the mystifying riddles, clues and strangeness that occurs as they dig deeper into the case.
Buckle in for a narrative driven by FBI agents, local town sheriff stations, confusion and utter bizarreness. It’ll leave you itching for a good ol’ cup of coffee, slice of cherry pie and answers.
Starring British sweethearts David Tennant and Olivia Colman, Broadchurch follows the two detectives over three seasons of murder, disorder and unsettling truths.
The first season follows the pair try and uncover the murder of Danny Latimer, an 11 year-old school boy who grew up in a rural English seaside town. Tensions run high as the two detectives unravel the case and it soon arises that Danny’s father may just be the prime suspect. The following series unpicks other suspective murders and the suspense continues to frustrate and build as every episode draws to a close.
If you’re looking for a nostalgia trip, Jonathan Creek is calling your name.
It’s not everyday a man who makes a living on performing magic is going to be the person who continually solves murder cases but Jonathan Creek is just as confusing, but totally loveable, as it sounds.
Comedian Alan Davies stars as Jonathan Creek, a magician who has been hired by investigative journalist, Madeline Magellan, to help solve the clues to a case that appears to be just suicide. Through his wit and charm we slowly fall in love with Creek’s funny persona and attitude to life.
Some of the storylines are outright hilarious, while others will leave you wondering what’s been left lingering under your bathtub for too long…
Still relatively new on the scene, HBO original True Detective has seen some of the best American actors, from Woody Harrelson to Matthew McConaughey, star as homicide detectives.
The narrative is fairly simple on the murder mystery front. We follow a pair of detectives in each series (although these change with each season) and they try to untie the issues linked to the case. It’s not just the narrative that captures your attention, it’s the epic cinematography and muted colour palette (expect a lot of sepia tones).
Critically the first season with Harrelson and McConaughey went down better than the preceding two series but it’s still a great watch for any crime drama lovers out there.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories are known worldwide and there’s no doubt you’ve seen one of the various filmic or tv adaptations of his stories, but BBC’s Sherlock may just beat the rest to the top spot.
We see Benedict Cumberbatch tackle the role of Sherlock Holmes with such grace, as he solves modern-day mystery cases with his friend and associate Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman). Their bond is charming and it’s easy to see why so many around the world have fallen hard for Cumberbatch’s chiselled jaw and dreamy features.
BBC’s psychological crime drama Luther has become a favourite among many crime hard fans. Idris Elba stars as John Luther, a Detective Chief Inspector who we soon find houses some of the same traits his suspects are victim to.
It’s captivating, chaotic and, at times, brutal but you won’t be able to take your eyes off the scene (well only if you don’t find blood squeamish).
An oldie but a goldie, Murder, She Wrote helped to characterise so much of what we know and love about murder mysteries today. The narrative follows the endearing mystery writer and part-time detective Jessica Fletcher as she makes it her mission to unpick the clues to some of the most confusing tales ever told.
A murder mystery in its own right, BBC’s Killing Eve has managed to steal the hearts of the nation since first airing in 2018. Three seasons later and audiences are still as captivated by the comedy-cum-phychological-thriller and the witty, risque relationship between the two leading protagonists, Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve Polanski (Sandra Oh).
We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already spent your months in lockdown gripping to the edge of your seat as you binged your way through the latest season, but if you can’t get enough fall back in love with Villanelle’s iconic fashion looks, fast-paced globetrotting and the obsessive relationship between Villanelle and Eve.
Castle is your everyday classic murder mystery but with an all important twist.
The narrative follows crime fiction novelist, Rick Castle, as he begins working with the police to learn more about how murders usually unfold after a copy-cat killer tries to reimagine his literary murders.
It’s witty, fast paced and full of unruly endings, just as a good murder mystery should be.
Fall in love with a murder mystery masterpiece as you settle in for a hefty 13 seasons of Poirot. The show is based on the murder mystery legend novelist, Dame Agatha Christie and her short stories involving the Hercule Poirot.
Spread over 13 series, delve into the 70 episodes of Poirot that are filled with murder case after murder case that detective Hercule Poirot has to solve. It’s a great one for those who love Christie’s work and want to see it explored in a televised format.