Mystery Videos Take Over the
We're big fans of mystery series on the small (or, for many people, not-so-small) screen. And, what better time than winter to check out all that's available--many of which are adapted, sometimes very loosely, from novels.
While we prefer, when available, the convenience afforded by Netflix streaming, we also rely on DVDs, particularly for many of the classics.
In one of our early newsletters, we briefly discussed our favorite British videos. Many were classics. Just glance at the following list to see how many classics you remember seeing on TV, probably on Masterpiece Mystery.
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime [Tommy and Tuppence, 1983-84]
Brother Cadfael [1994-1996]
Father Brown [1980s]
Inspector Alleyn Mysteries [1990s]
Lord Peter Wimsey [1970s/1987]
Mrs. Bradley Mysteries [1998-2000]
Murder Most English [1970s]
Pie in the Sky [1994-1997]
Prime Suspect [1991-2006]
Ruth Rendell Mysteries [1987-2000]
A Touch of Frost [1992-2010]
Would you believe it's been more than 20 years since the first Prime Suspect (and Chief Inspector Jane Tennyson) first appeared? Or that Rumpole started in 1978?
Since then, our options and yours have expanded--both old and new. The British selections alone flourished, though there are a few well-regarded series that are not yet available in the U.S.--or Region 1 in DVD language. (Vs. Region 2 in Britain. Region 2 videos, sadly, do not play on most U.S. DVD players.)
Of our six favorite new-to-us shows this year, two are British: Vera and The Bletchley Circle (Ann's very favorite). But most of the shows listed here are not new, just worth listing, especially neglected series like Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle or Murder in Suburbia (humorously mismatched female buddy series).
The Bletchley Circle
*Chandler & Co.
Dalziel and Pascoe
Death in Paradise
Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle
Helen West 
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Inspector Lewis [Morse follow-up]
Jonathan Creek [magician detective]
Judge John Deed
The Last Detective
Murder in Suburbia
The No. 1 Detective Agency
Rosemary & Thyme [beautiful gardens]
*Scott and Bailey
*Silent Witness [1996-2013]
Waking the Dead
Wire in the Blood [R]
Four of our favorite series last year, however, were non-British and mostly dark. The supremely cynical Spiral (Engrenages in French) provides great insights into the French judicial system (for those used to a common-law legal system anyway) and perhaps into the French political system. Each of its seasons follows one major case and one or two minor ones. Annika Bengtzon shows Sweden is not always fuzzy and mothers not always what they might be. (The newspaper reporter title character has a tendency to forget her children when following a story.) Jack Taylor brings Ken Bruen's noir stories about an ex-Guarda private eye and some of the shames of modern Ireland to life. (We venture to guess, however, that the Irish Tourist Board will not be showing these anytime soon.)
Our 2013 favorite (Paula's #1, Ann's #2), however, is the least dark of our six--Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, set in 1920s Australia. Phryne Fisher came into money (plus a minor title) and returned to Australia to ensure her sister's murderer does not go free. Shortly thereafter she sets up as a private detective. The mysteries aren't great but Phryne and her friends are great good fun. The production values are high and the music very nice. Excellent escapism. (Gorgeous period costumes.) First class.
Fabio Montale [Marseilles Trilogy, French]
The Killing [Danish/Britain only]
Jack Taylor [R, Ireland]
Kurt Wallander [Swedish]
Lilyhammer [Norway setting]
The Maigret Collection (1991) (British)
The Millennium Trilogy [Swedish]
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries [Australian]
Murdock Mysteries [Canadian]
Spiral [R, French]
Zen [Set in Italy]
Obviously this list is not complete. American series, including the classic Peter Gunn, Mike Hammer, and Ellery Queen versions, are not included. Perhaps another time? And the many foreign shows not available in Region 1 formats are omitted. Go to Italian-mysteries.com for a more complete list of series available in English. (The site includes many non-Italian series.)
Throughout this last year, we've had numerous delightful discussions with customers about some of these programs. (Ann even learned about Spiral while talking to a couple she met last winter at the Uffizi in Florence.) We're always eager to hear what you think of the mysteries you read OR watch.
* Means not on DVDs or streaming in U.S. currently.
R means not for the faint-hearted, really, really not for the faint-hearted. Think Dexter. Be warned.