Since its popularisation in the late 1800s, the detective genre has never disappeared. Everyone enjoys a good murder mystery, and it’s from London that some of the world’s most famous sleuths have sprung. From timeless classics to 21st-century incarnations, here’s a handful of some of our favourite detectives!
A Belgian refugee and ex-policeman, Hercule Poirot takes up residence in Britain’s big capital after fleeing his home country from the German occupation of Belgium in World War I. It’s here that he rises to fame as one of the greatest detectives the world has ever seen. Originally penned as a long-standing novel series by Agatha Christie between 1916 and 1975, Poirot has since been portrayed on the screen by a range of renowned actors, including the likes of Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov. The most recent to take up the mantle is Kenneth Branagh, in his recent adaptations of Murder On The Orient Express and Death On The Nile. However, the fan favourite depiction remains the impeccable performance of David Suchet in ITV’s long-standing series that ran from 1989 to 2013, adapting every single Poirot story ever written by Agatha Christie.
Loosely based on the historical figure of the same name, Ripper Street’s incarnation offers a creative take on Inspector Ried’s navigation of the London crime scene. Set six months after the brutal Ripper Murders in Whitechapel, East London is finally recovering from the mysterious tirade of gruesome murders. Despite remaining unsolved, the terrified citizens of London have reached a point where they’re just hoping to keep the peace. However, haunted by past mistakes, Detective Inspector Ried finds solace by throwing himself head-first into his work. Determined to make a difference for the better, the forward-thinking detective is pulled into London’s seedy criminal underworld, where a second wave of grizzly crimes leads him to the fearful suspicion of the Ripper’s return.
Known for his dear stalker, pipe and tweed trench coat, Sherlock Holmes is a British cultural icon. Residing in 221B, Baker Street, London, the address is as well-known today as Platform 9¾. A self-proclaimed ‘consulting detective’, Holmes was truly ahead of his time, dabbling in forensic science back when the simple fingerprint was considered avant-garde. Known for his keen eye and impeccable observational skills, Holmes adopts a haughty attitude in his unapologetic self-awareness of just how damn good at his job he is! Originally published as a series of novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 1887 to 1927, the patronising pipe smoker has since been played by a myriad of A-listers, including Jeremy Brett, Rupert Everette and Robert Downey Jr. One of the most recent to take up the role was Benedict Cumberbatch in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s modern imaging of the London detective.
What’s truly chilling about this one is that it’s based on a true story that’s just a little bit too close for comfort. On February 9th 1983, Inspector Peter Jay was called to 23 Cranley Gardens in North London after the discovery of suspected human remains in the apartment’s gutter. Upon entering the apartment to the unmistakable stench of corpses, the residing tenant, Dennis Nilsen, freely admitted to the murder of fifteen young men. Based on Killing For Company, the biography of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters, ITV released a mini-series in 2020 titled Des, paying tribute to the extensive work undertaken by Inspector Jay and his peers in bringing the vicious serial killer to justice.
Well, we couldn’t not include him, could we? He’s part of the Wild River family, after all. And we adore him. A put-upon London detective at the tail end of his career, bored and at his wit’s end, our Elias Shaw is doing his best. Finding solace in the somewhat comforting thought of his looming retirement, Shaw burns through cigarette after cigarette while swigging from his hip flask just to try and get through each day. Despite being damn good at his job, it seems like something of a lost passion now that he’s reached his middle age. However, when a dubious case crops up out of the blue, Shaw soon finds himself being lured back into the detective’s chair – the only thing he hates more than his job is an unsolved mystery.
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Many London detectives claim to be the number 1 – which one do you think is most deserving of the crown? Let us know your take in the comment section below!