Top 5 Fictional British Detectives of All Time

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Top 5 British detectives
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List of the Top Five British Detectives

This article overviews the top five British TV detectives of all time. Mystery writers have perfected their craft for creating a whodunit world that has fascinated readers for centuries. The crime novel entertains as well as challenges even the sharpest of minds. Readers follow detectives through untold sorts of trouble, danger, and intrigue in hopes of finding elusive clues to solve crimes of passion and intrigue.

Readers crave the thrills, the scares, and the intricate puzzles that stretch their imagination, all from the comfort of their overstuffed easy chairs with a glass of their favorite beverage.

Cozy detective stories come in paperbacks, magazines, DVDs, and even in online streaming format. No matter what the format, audiences still love to peer into the heads of the detectives whose “little grey cells” solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. The cozies won’t curdle your blood with shootouts, car chases, bomb threats, or aliens. But you’ll get your fill of murders, missing persons, and thefts that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

The best authors lull you into the comfy zone when you turn the first page or hear the opening music. The British, in particular, seem to have developed a unique talent for making you choose a quiet armchair mystery over the artificial thrill rides of blood, guts, and explosions. Below is a top 5 list of the best British Detectives of all time, in alphabetical order, followed by a brief description of each.

Hercule Poirot

Arguably the most famous detective in Agatha Christie’s long list of best sellers, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has been seen on both the big screen and TV. Always a perfectionist and a nit-picker, he once returned a full breakfast to the chef because he could not possibly eat breakfast with eggs of two different sizes. He is the only fictional detective on our list to be given an obituary in the New York Times.

Here is a list of books featuring Hercule Poirot:

Novels:

  • “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” (1920)
  • “Murder on the Links” (1923)
  • “Poirot Investigates” (1924) – A collection of short stories
  • “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” (1926)
  • “The Big Four” (1927)
  • “The Mystery of the Blue Train” (1928)
  • “Black Coffee” (1930) – A play novelized by Charles Osborne
  • “Peril at End House” (1932)
  • “Lord Edgware Dies” (1933) [US title: “Thirteen at Dinner”]
  • “Murder on the Orient Express” (1934)
  • “Three Act Tragedy” (1935)
  • “Death in the Clouds” (1935) [US title: “Death in the Air”]
  • “The A.B.C. Murders” (1936)
  • “Murder in Mesopotamia” (1936)
  • “Cards on the Table” (1936)
  • “Dumb Witness” (1937) [US title: “Poirot Loses a Client”]
  • “Death on the Nile” (1937)
  • “Appointment with Death” (1938)
  • “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” (1938) [US title: “Murder for Christmas” / “A Holiday for Murder”]
  • “Murder Is Easy” (1939) [US title: “Easy to Kill”]
  • “And Then There Were None” (1939)
  • “Sad Cypress” (1940)
  • “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” (1940) [US title: “The Patriotic Murders” / “An Overdose of Death”]
  • “Evil Under the Sun” (1941)
  • “Five Little Pigs” (1942) [US title: “Murder in Retrospect”]
  • “The Hollow” (1946)
  • “The Labours of Hercules” (1947) – A collection of short stories
  • “Taken at the Flood” (1948) [US title: “There Is a Tide”]
  • “Mrs McGinty’s Dead” (1952)
  • “After the Funeral” (1953) [US title: “Funerals Are Fatal”]
  • “Hickory Dickory Dock” (1955)
  • “Dead Man’s Folly” (1956)
  • “Cat Among the Pigeons” (1959)
  • “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” (1960) – A collection of short stories
  • “The Clocks” (1963)
  • “Third Girl” (1966)
  • “Hallowe’en Party” (1969)
  • “Elephants Can Remember” (1972)
  • “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” (1975)

Here are the best-selling books featuring Poirot on Amazon:

Short Story Collections:

  • “Poirot Investigates” (1924)
  • “Murder in the Mews” (1937)
  • “The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories” (1939)
  • “The Labours of Hercules” (1947)
  • “The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories” (1948)
  • “Three Blind Mice and Other Stories” (1950)
  • “The Under Dog and Other Stories” (1951)
  • “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” (1960)

These works showcase the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as he solves a variety of intriguing cases. The list includes both full-length novels and short story collections featuring Poirot.

Hetty Wainthropp

Next on the list of British TV detectives is Hetty Wainthropp. Initially written by writer David Cook, this detective series was brought to the small screen in a series called “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.” It chronicles the story of an old-age pensioner who refuses to give up living just because she has turned 60. She likes things to add up neatly, and her sidekick Geoffrey Shawcross motors her around on the back of his borrowed scooter through the streets of Lancashire, UK, solving local crimes deemed too trivial for the police.

Here is a list of books featuring Hetty Wainthropp written by David Cook:

  • “Missing Persons” (1986)
  • “Men of Principle” (1989)
  • “Murder in Focus” (1990)
  • “In the Beginning” (1991)
  • “Discoveries” (1993)
  • “Recollections of an Unimportant Life” (1995)
  • “Absent Friends” (1997)
  • “First Came a Murder” (1998)
  • “Murder on the Short List” (2002)
  • “The Widow’s Tale” (2003)

These novels follow Hetty Wainthropp as she unravels mysteries, often with a combination of wit, charm, and tenacity. Hetty Wainthropp is a beloved character, and the series offers a delightful mix of detective work and engaging storytelling.

Jack Frost

Based upon the “Frost” novels by R.D. Wingfield, William Edward “Jack” Frost played the main character in the British TV series “A Touch of Frost.” A former police officer, Jack Frost has a wry sense of humor, a disdain for paperwork, and unconventional respect for authority. His character is enjoyable for his many failures and successes, but he always solves crimes where the highly trained and modernized police forces fail.

Here is a list of the Jack Frost novels written by R.D. Wingfield:

  • “Frost at Christmas” (1984)
  • “A Touch of Frost” (1987)
  • “Night Frost” (1992)
  • “Hard Frost” (1995)
  • “Winter Frost” (1999)
  • “A Killing Frost” (2008)

These novels follow Detective Inspector Jack Frost as he tackles various criminal cases in Denton, dealing with both the professional challenges of police work and the personal struggles in his life. It’s worth noting that after R.D. Wingfield’s death in 2007, the series was continued by James Henry, who wrote additional prequels to the original Frost novels.

Jane Marple

As she is affectionately known to her viewers, Miss Marple is a most unlikely sleuth. She knew “a policeman asking questions arouses suspicion, but an old lady asking questions is just an old lady asking questions.” Quietly observant but sharp as a saber, Miss Marple goes about helping the police solve crimes, even though her help is often scorned by policemen who think she’s a kook.

She outwits them every time, leaving the police detectives speechless. The viewer watches her observe, question, and deduce her way to the final revelation of the guilty party. Here is a list of books featuring Jane Marple, written by Agatha Christie:

  • “Murder at the Vicarage” (1930)
  • “The Body in the Library” (1942)
  • “The Moving Finger” (1942)
  • “A Murder Is Announced” (1950)
  • “They Do It with Mirrors” (1952) [US title: “Murder with Mirrors”]
  • “A Pocket Full of Rye” (1953)
  • “4.50 from Paddington” (1957) [US title: “What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!”]
  • “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” (1962)
  • “A Caribbean Mystery” (1964)
  • “At Bertram’s Hotel” (1965)
  • “Third Girl” (1966)
  • “Endless Night” (1967)
  • “By the Pricking of My Thumbs” (1968)
  • “Hallowe’en Party” (1969)
  • “Passenger to Frankfurt” (1970)
  • “Nemesis” (1971)
  • “Sleeping Murder” (1976)
  • “Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories” (1979) –

This is a collection of short stories featuring Miss Marple. These novels and short stories showcase Jane Marple’s observational skills and ability to solve mysteries in a manner reminiscent of Hercule Poirot, another famous detective created by Agatha Christie.

Sherlock Holmes

Crafted by Scottish author Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is famous for his skill in deductive reasoning. Accompanied closely by his dear friend Dr. John Watson, the two solve crimes, with Watson often working as the decoy while Holmes figures out the solution through his keen sense of observation.

Eccentric and unconventional, he often starves himself to strengthen his intellectual powers. Not interested in money, he draws much of his satisfaction from solving crimes the police find too baffling.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories featuring the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. Here is a list of the novels and their publication dates:

  • “A Study in Scarlet” (1887)
  • “The Sign of the Four” (1890)
  • “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1901-1902, serialized; 1902, book)
  • “The Valley of Fear” (1914-1915, serialized; 1915, book)

The short stories are divided into five collections:

  • “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892)
  • “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” (1893)
  • “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” (1903)
  • “His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes” (1917)
  • “The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes” (1927)

These works showcase the brilliant deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. John Watson as they solve various intriguing cases in Victorian and Edwardian England.

Questions and Comments about British TV Detectives

If you have any questions about this list of the top five British TV detectives, please post a comment below. Also, see our collection of police TV series.

Author: Ron Kissiah – Technical Analyst and Writer

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