The 6 Types of TV Detectives

They’re all good at singling out suspects, but TV detectives come in many different flavours. Here are five of them…

Nathaniel Parker plays Thomas Lynley.


Suave, impeccably dressed, unfailingly polite: the smoothie is the kind of detective who somehow maintains his courtly composure even when he's stepping over a dead body at a blood-splattered crime scene. Perhaps the ultimate example of this type of sleuth is Thomas Lynley, who has a bit of a headstart on other smoothies, given that he's been basking in the finer things since birth. Lynley, after all, is the 8th Earl of Asherton, and if he wasn't sifting through forensic evidence and staring down sweaty suspects, he'd be equally at home playing the love interest in a Jane Austen romance.

Yes, the Eton-and-Oxford educated Lynley exudes old world manners from every perfect pore, and you've got to give him credit for actually choosing to do some good by being a detective rather than simply swanning around in cocktail parties and hobnobbing with pretty princesses and monocled barons.


As well as giving us the ultimate smoothie, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries also gives us the smoothie's spiritual opposite. Ie, the gritty copper who lives for their job and sneers at the very concept of a happy social life. Naturally enough, the gritty copper in question happens to be his partner, Barbara Havers. Constantly wearing the expression of someone who has swallowed something unpleasant, Havers has the twitchy, permanently on-edge air of a frontline soldier in an unending war.

You can't blame her: she has a turbulent working class background, scrapes by on low wages, is disliked by colleagues, and has to deal with her elderly, ailing parents in her spare time. With a life as tough as hers, Havers basically lacks the headspace for a sense of humour, and she's quick to take any comment as a possible slight or insult. This doesn't exactly endear her to her fellow cops, but deep within that hardened exterior there's a softer person waiting to be discovered. Probably.

Peter Davison plays DC Davies.

Peter Davison plays DC Davies.


When it comes to ironic nicknames, "Dangerous" Davies surely takes some beating. The hapless hero of The Last Detective is about as dangerous as a golden retriever, and he is the perfect example of the Mr Nice Guy detective. Actor Peter Davison has always excelled at playing sincere, earnest types, and he's perfect in the role of the copper who's almost too decent and innocent for his own good.

Frequently sidelined and mocked by colleagues, he's dubbed the "last detective" because he gets saddled with the cases nobody else wants. He may be living proof that nice guys finish last, but "Dangerous" Davies also has a brilliantly inquisitive mind and a way of cracking puzzles which eventually does earn the respect of others. Which is good, because we'd be heartbroken for him otherwise.

Ken Stott plays DI John Rebus.

Ken Stott plays DI John Rebus.


And now we're onto one of the all-time classic crime show archetypes: the hard-drinking, world-weary, noir-style detective. The man (and it's usually a man) who wanders the mean streets of an unfriendly city, his soul tainted by the corruption around him but his integrity somehow still intact.

Take a bow, Rebus: the rugged Scottish sleuth with a weakness for a stiff drink and the haunted eyes of a man who's seen the truth about the human condition. It's not for nothing that the Rebus stories have been dubbed "Tartan Noir", because his character - and the moody, shadow-draped urban setting - harks right back to the atmospheric film noirs of old. While Rebus may not particularly enjoy grappling with personal demons while sinking his woes in whisky, we certainly enjoy watching him do it.

Martha MacIsaac as Kate Warne.

Martha MacIsaac as Kate Warne.


All detectives are clever - it's kind of essential to the job - but some veer into outright nerd territory. We mean nerd in the most complimentary sense, of course. These are the extremely ingenious sleuths who love nothing more than gazing into microscopes, holding test tubes up to the light, and waxing lyrical about blood splatter patterns while their colleagues look on like baffled monkeys. Take a bow Kate Warne, the cleverest member of The Pinkertons detective agency, whose passion for forensic analysis makes her seem more than a little eccentric in 19th Century America. The fact that she also happens to be a woman is almost too much for the local menfolk to handle - particularly as she's also an expert shot with a pistol.

Trevor Eve plays Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd.

Trevor Eve plays Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd.


And now we come to the rule-breaker. The cop who wants to get results and doesn't care how they do it. Step forward Peter Boyd, head honcho of Waking the Dead, and a man who energetically bends the rules without a second thought. Barging about police headquarters, bellowing in his colleagues' faces, and overly fond of harassing and intimidating suspects and friends alike, Boyd is - let's face it - a bit of a bully. But he knows he has problems, especially with his temper (for Boyd, every straw is the last straw) and he does occasionally try to behave himself.

Never lasts long, though - Boyd is a natural born rebel and troublemaker, even getting into trouble for drink driving. So it's lucky that, generally speaking, he's on the side of the angels. Just try telling that to the suspects he terrorizes in the interview room.