9 detective series boxsets to binge on

PUBLISHED: 20:00 24 April 2020

Shaun Evans and Roger Allam star in Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour . Picture: ITV/BritBox

Shaun Evans and Roger Allam star in Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour . Picture: ITV/BritBox


Is your next boxset a mystery? Here are some clues for some great detective and spy dramas to watch.

Head to sunnier climes with Death in Paradise. Picture: BBC/BritBoxHead to sunnier climes with Death in Paradise. Picture: BBC/BritBox

1. Endeavour

Each episode of ITV’s classy, quirky and clever Inspector Morse prequel is feature length, so this is one to block out an evening or rainy afternoon for. Set in Oxford in the 60s and 70s, Shaun Evans stars as the young Morse, alongside Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday and Anton Lesser as his boss Chief Superintendant Bright.

As well as baroque mysteries which keep you guessing right up to the big reveal of whodunit, writer Russell Lewis packs the series with ‘Easter eggs’ too – see if you can spot the references to The Day Today, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, numerous films and TV shows – and plenty of nods to the Morse universe and the opera loving sleuth’s creator Colin Dexter. Plus, Oxford Mail reporter Dorothea Fraizl is played by the original Morse John Thaw’s daughter, Abigail Thaw, and his wife, Sheila Hancock, also makes a guest appearance in one episode.

It’s streaming on BritBox and selected episodes are also available on ITV Player.

The team crack cold cases in Unforgotten. Picture: ITV/BritBoxThe team crack cold cases in Unforgotten. Picture: ITV/BritBox

2. Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes

‘Tecs turn time travellers in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. First shown in 2006 and 2007, Life on Mars stars John Simm as Sam Tyler, a police officer with Greater Manchester Police. After being hit by a car, he wakes up in 1973, working under the command of DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) – but has he died, is he in a coma or could he have really travelled back in time? In the follow-up the ever-watchable Keeley Hawes plays Alex Drake, a police officer for the Met Police, who is shot in 2008 by a man called Arthur Layton and regains consciousness in 1981 – and also finds herself working alongside Gene Hunt in a chalk and cheese double act. Fire up the Quattro.

The series are streaming on platforms including BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

Olivia Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch . Picture: ITV/BritBoxOlivia Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch . Picture: ITV/BritBox

3. Wallander

Kenneth Branagh stars as the titular police inspector in the first English language adaptation of Swedish novelist Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels. Evocative and exquistely filmed, the series is set in the town of Ystad and follows Wallander and his investigation team. Aside from work, there is also an insight into the detective’s shambolic personal life and his volatile relationships with his daughter and father. There are four series – and the poignant final epiosde is one which will stay with you.

Wallander is available on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

4. Death in Paradise

Many of us will be daydreaming of trips to warmer climes at the moment. But we wouldn’t recommed Saint Marie as a destination – it has a worryingly high crime rate. Created by Robert Thorogood, Ben Miller, Kris Marshall, Ardal O’Hanlon and most recently Ralf Little have headed to the fictional Caribbean island to solve various gruesome goings on. There are nine sun-soaked series to binge on – with some exceedingly starry guest turns. A trip to the Caribbean for work? Who can blame them?

It’s streaming on platforms including BritBox, BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

5. Sherlock

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Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and The League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss created a very modern Sherlock, making a superstar out of Benedict Cumberbatch in the process.

Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyles original Sherlock Holmes stories and set in modern day London, the eccentric sleuth keeps his extraordinary brain occupied as a “consulting detective”. Assisted by his friend, Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman), a former army medic who served in Afghanistan, Sherlock’s gift for solving seemingly unsolvable mysteries makes him a reluctant celebrity. Andrew Scott is brilliant as Sherlock’s mercurial nemesis Jim Moriarity – and there are great supporting turns from Rupert Graves as Detective Inspector Lestrade, Louise Brealey as pathologist Molly Hooper, Una Stubbs as landlady Mrs Hudson and Gatiss as Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft.

Sherlock is available on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

6. Unforgotten

Nicola Walker (who is brilliant in everything she does, most recently starring as lawyer Hannah Stern in The Spilt) and Sanjeev Bhaskar star as London detectives DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan as they crack cold murder and disappearance cases. There have been three intriguing series so far, each focusing on a different case, with a fourth due this year.

Catch up now on BritBox.

7. Broadchurch

The first series of Broadchurch – and the much-anticipated big reveal of who killed Danny Latimer – was one of the biggest whodunits of the last decade. Created and written by Chris Chibnall and set in a fictional Dorset town, the twisted thriller stars Norfolk’s own Olivia Colman and David Tennant as detectives DS Ellie Miller and DI Alec Hardy. The second series in the trilogy follows Danny’s killer being brought to justice – while a case from the past returns to haunt Hardy. And the third focuses on the investigation of the rape of a local woman, while the Latimer family try to move on from Danny’s death. The stellar ensemble cast also includes Jodie Whitaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill and Vicky McClure.

Broadchurch is available on BritBox.

8. Spooks

There are 10 thrilling series of stylish spy drama Spooks to catch up on. It follows a group of MI5 officers, who are based at its Thames House HQ in a high security suite of offices called The Grid. With a cast that includes Peter Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, David Oyelowo, Nicola Walker, Rupert Penry Jones, Miranda Raison, Raza Jaffrey, Hermione Norris, Gemma Jones, Richard Armitage and many, many more, it’s also the chance to enjoy some brilliant acting talent.

It’s available on BBC iPlayer.

9. Line of Duty

Line of Duty creator and writer Jed Mercurio is the absolute master of edge of your seat TV – so it’s no surprise that before its move to primetime BBC One, this labyrinthine series was BBC Two’s most popular drama for a decade.

The show follows firearms officer DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), who is transferred to Anti-Corruption Unit 12 after refusing to cover up an unlawful shooting by his team. At AC-12 he’s partnered with DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), working under the supervision of Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar).

Throughout the series they investigate seemingly-corrupt officers DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James), DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes), Sgt Danny Waldron (Daniel Mays), DCI Roseanne Huntley (Thandie Newton) and undercover officer DS John Corbett (Stephen Graham). But with Mercurio nothing is ever as it seems.

Line of Duty is on BBC iPlayer.

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