Inspector Linley Mysteries

Contemporary mysteries but with elements of the classic genre. The main protagonist is both a police inspector and an English lord. The show can be thoroughly contemporary at one point then shift to a scene in a grand stately home with echoes of the 1930s. The show focuses on Linley's personal problems and the sexual frisson between him and his working class female sergeant assistant, almost as much as the crimes.
The Inspector Linley Mysteries have good story lines and interesting characters. Linley's rather tortured personal life will appeal to female viewers more than men. My wife likes it more than I do.

The characters and many of the plots come from the books by the American author, Elizabeth George, and at times Linley comes across as an American's idea of an English Lord.

Stars - 3.5
Genre – Contemporary.
Available on DVD: 4 seasons. The show is currently in its 5th season.
Continuity matters: Yes. Linley's personal issues feature in plot lines and you need to know what has happened in the past.

Lewis (released as Inspector Lewis on DVD in the USA)
Lewis is a spin off from the phenomenally successful Morse (see below), and features Morse's assistant Sergeant Lewis (played by the same actor – Kevin Whately), ten years later and promoted to Inspector. He now has his own Detective Sergeant assistant played by Laurence Fox who in my view makes the show with a highly believable portrayal of a clever policeman.
If you liked Morse then you should check out Lewis. It's not as original or probably as good as Morse, but it's still pretty good.
Stars – 3
Genre - Contemporary
Available on DVD: 7 mysteries over 3 seasons, produced in 2007 and 2008.
Continuity matters: No, but watching at least some episodes of Morse first will make the show more enjoyable.

Inspector Linley Mysteries; Midsomer Murders

I highly recommend this show. Those familiar with the classic English murder mysteries will enjoy its tongue in cheek allusions, as well as its wry humor. The show is set in a handful of small English villages seemingly populated by people willing to commit multiple murders on the slightest pretext. Good acting, and an interesting window on contemporary English village life add to it's appeal.
Unusually for the genre, the main character, Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby played by John Nettles is happily married, and has no personal problems or character flaws. His fictional wife and daughter often feature in the shows.
Plots can be difficult to follow and somewhat outlandish, but that gives you an excuse to watch the shows twice. The second time knowing who killed whom and why.
Stars – 4.5
Genre – Contemporary
Available on DVD: 61 episodes over 11 years
Continuity matters: There is some continuity in Inspector Barnaby's family life, but it's not enough that you need to watch them in order.

Inspector Linley Mysteries; Miss Marple (with Joan Hickson)

This was the first British TV adaption of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels, using Christie's original plots. Interestingly, the first ever TV adaption of Miss Marple was in the USA in 1956. Authentic period reconstructions, but perhaps lacking the production slickness of the later series (below).
If you liked Christie's books, then you will like this series even more, and you can impress your friends by 'guessing' who the murderer is.
Stars – 3.5
Genre – Period
Available on DVD: 12 movie length shows produced from 1984 to 1992
Continuity matters: No. You can watch them in any order.

Miss Marple (released as Agatha Christie's Marple to differentiate it from the earlier TV series above)
A faithful recreation of the character created by Agatha Christie using plots from her novels and short stories. Although with occasional modern twists, such as a lesbian affair in The Body in the Library. Highly recommended for fans of Christie's books.
Hardcore fans can compare mysteries with identical plots between this and the earlier Miss Marple series.
Stars – 4
Genre - Period
Available on DVD: Four series produced from 2004 to 2008, each comprising 4 mysteries
Continuity matters: No. They can be watched in any order.

Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse defined the contemporary British murder mystery. The show was hugely popular when it went to air in the 1980s, and is still considered by many to be the best. Morse is my wife's favorite.
Morse is an intellectual, an opera lover and partial to more than one glass of beer. A man more at home in the halls of academia than the rough and tumble of police work. Much of the show is set in amongst the beautiful buildings of Oxford University and the plots often involve academics and students. The soundtrack features classical music.
Morse's assistant, Sergeant Lewis, is a bluff straight-talking northerner, happily married with children, in contrast to the intellectual Morse whose personal live lurches from one failure to the next, while solving murders of course.
The shows are well plotted and much of the their appeal stems from the contrasting personalities of Morse and Lewis. Morse is a man who can make mistakes and sometimes arrest the wrong person.
Morse is named after a champion solver of that very British institution the cryptic crossword puzzle. Not only is Morse often seen solving crossword puzzles, the names of many of the murderers are those of the winners of a national crossword solving competition. Those familiar with these puzzles will enjoy seeing the cryptic crossword reinvented as murder mystery. Although, the shows are just as enjoyable for those who know nothing about cryptic crosswords.
Stars - 5
Genre - Contemporary
Available on DVD: 33 movie length shows produce between 1987 and 2000
Continuity matters: Yes. Watch the shows in the order they were produced, as there are references to what happened in earlier shows.

Inspector Linley Mysteries; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

In my opinion, the most authentic, and true to the original of the period murder mysteries. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes for magazines, which makes Doyle's tightly plotted short stories particularly suitable for one hour (50 minute) TV shows.
Jeremy Brett gives an outstanding performance as the brilliant, but cocaine addicted Sherlock Holmes.
The sets and costumes are terrific (a complete reconstruction of Baker Street was built for the show). As is the portrayal of Dr Watson as a capable ex-military man, avoiding the mistake, made by several movie adaptions, of making Watson a clueless foil to Holmes' genius.
Watch out for the young Jude Law in The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.
Stars – 5
Genre – Period (Edwardian England)
Available on DVD: 41 mysteries produced over 10 seasons. Five are movie length, the rest 50 minutes long.
Continuity matters: No. Although some aspects, such as his relationship with Moriarty, do depend on earlier episodes.

(A) Touch of Frost
Based on the novels by RD Wingfield it features, Jack Frost, a maverick old style 'copper' working in the modern bureaucratic police force. Story lines are gritty and realistically modern, set in a fictional southern English city.
Veteran British actor, David Jansen's* performance as the caustic, cynical Frost, with too much sympathy for the victims he encounters, makes the show and I like it, but if you are new strategies to the genre, then I suggest you watch other shows before this one. I particularly liked the character of Frost's straight-laced superior, Superintendent Norman Mullet, who must balance the demands of a modern police force with Frost's unconventional 'old school' approach to solving crimes.
*You may remember Jansen in the role of the lovable rogue father of Catherine Zeta Jones in the Darling Buds of May, and as a similar character in Only Fools and Horses. See my guide to British TV sitcoms.
Stars - 4
Genre - Contemporary
Available on DVD: 35 mysteries over 14 seasons, including the latest yet to be released on DVD
Continuity matters: Yes. Although not as much as some other shows listed here.

Inspector Linley Mysteries; Wire in The Blood

Dr Tony Hill, a clinical psychologist with psychological problems of his own, tries to figure out the killer's motivation in order to solve bizarre, ritualistic serial killings, in a fictional northern city. The long-suffering Chief Inspector Carol Jordan tries to support Hill and his methods in the face of police skepticism and Hill's frequent false leads.
I like Wire in the Blood, but its dark plots and regional setting make it not suitable for someone new strategies to the genre. Accents might pose a problem for some non-British viewers.

Genre - Contemporary
Available on DVD: 19 mysteries over 5 seasons, plus a final mystery set in Texas.
Continuity matters: Yes. Although not as much as some other shows listed here.

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