The 4 Best Senior Sleuths

Let’s hear it for the audacious OAPs who’d rather be nabbing villains than cashing their pensions…

Hetty

HETTY WAINTHROPP

Quiet, timid, sweet and retiring. Those are the words that would spring to mind if you were to meet Hetty Wainthropp on the street, or in your local supermarket. But you'd be wrong. So wrong. Monumentally, comically wrong. Hetty is actually as resilient as any hard-nosed copper working the mean streets of an inner city, and has the attitude to match. Imagine a headmistress crossed with Taggart, and you've got Hetty to a T.

Of course, she has her softer side, but it's mainly reserved for her young tearaway of a sidekick, Geoffrey, to whom Hetty is a kind of surrogate nan. But when it comes to almost everybody else - fraudsters, thugs, ignorant police officers or her very own long-suffering husband - Hetty pulls no punches and never gives up till she gets her way. Frankly, we imagine she could take any whippersnapper on in a street fight, using her handbag as a lethal weapon.

Weeknights at 8pm

Watch Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and New Tricks, among others, weeknights at 8pm.

THE NEW TRICKS GANG

We're treating the New Tricks boys as one unit, because that's exactly what they are. A tight-knit bunch, even if they occasionally (85% of the time) get on each other's nerves. And why wouldn't they? You couldn't imagine a more motley bunch of blokes, from jack-the-lad Gerry to overgrown geek Brian "I don't creep, I glide" Lane. What unites them is a healthy annoyance at the modern world, with all its fads and fashions. 70% dark chocolate bars? "Tastes like tar that stuff. Nah, I like my chocolate to taste like... sugar."

The coppers were brought out of retirement to crack cold cases under the watchful eyes of someone who has the gall to be bother a) considerably younger and b) considerably more female, the boys are cantankerous, cynical and forever gagging to be in the pub. But that's what makes them such great sleuths. Not sure why, exactly, but it just does. Call it alchemy. Brian probably would.

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

MISS MARPLE

The quintessential "elder" detective, Miss Marple may be getting on in years, but her mind is as sharp as a diamond-tipped hairpin. While Hetty Wainthropp can be a bit of a battering ram, Marple is a more subtle presence altogether. But then she has to be, living as she does in a more gentle time, and inhabiting a world of quiet villages, bashful vicars and prim peers. You know, people with names like Percival Fortescue and Maud Calthrop.

Miss Marple blends right into her genteel surroundings: a little bird of a lady, with a respect for old fashioned manners and etiquette. But don't be fooled by her sparrow-like countenance, because she has the eyes of a hawk and an iron will to see the truth come out. Which is just as well, given the rising body count of St Mary Mead and various other seemingly-quiet areas she happens to visit. There are all sorts of sinister secrets and dastardly machinations going on in Marple's world, and she's just the person to uncover them.

MRS BRADLEY

"Marriage is one of those things it is best to get over and done with early on in life, like chickenpox." That's just one of the delicious one-liners deployed by Mrs Bradley, a lady who may be in her autumnal years, but is very far from the rocking chair and pile of knitting. No, Adela Bradley is a fashionable gal about town, indulging in all the style and luxury of the roaring 20s - an era of opulent Art Deco, scintillating jazz, and... mounting corpses.

Swanning about with elegant abandon, Mrs Bradley dresses more flamboyantly than most people half her age, and has absolutely no time for bores, dunces and dastardly villains who think they can flummox her. And no matter how complex the case, she always has some brain power reserved for her wonderful wit, and is also ahead of her time when it comes to matters of gender. We can't forget her take on girls' finishing schools: "a sort of farm where they grow wives and mothers." Beautiful.