The 4 Crime Dramas With The Best Settings

Great whodunits rely on intricate plotting and memorable characters. But how about the actual setting? Let’s applaud four of the most enjoyable backdrops to all the criminal skulduggery.

Death in Paradise

Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole and Sara Martins as Camille in Death in Paradise.


This had to come top of the list. Sure, the crimes may be ugly, but you've got to give the killers of Death in Paradise credit for having impeccable taste in murder locations. Set on the (fictitious) island of Saint Marie, Death in Paradise presents us with a locale that looks like every single BBC holiday programme rolled into one (apart from the ones set in, like, Vienna and stuff).

There are smooth, painfully smooth, sandy coastlines. There are lush forests. There are charmingly rickety vans. Even the local coppers are fun to be around, oozing the kind of irreverence that probably comes from living your life in such unbelievably tropical and laid back surroundings. This is a crime show that's so easy on the eye, we'd happily watch it even if it didn't have the kind of thrillingly high body count you'd expect from a war zone. And learning about Caribbean customs and religious rituals just adds to the allure of the whole thing.

Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland.

Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland.


From the Caribbean to... Shetland. Polar opposites, perhaps, but this setting is equally epic in its own way. The Scottish crime drama about DI Jimmy Perez cleaning up the mean streets of the Shetland archipelago boasts some of the most awesome and ominous scenery you can hope to see in a whodunit. Slate-coloured skies and cold white rays of sunlight give the whole thing an air of eerie isolation, mirroring the mental state of many of the characters.

The austere landscapes work well for a crime show because, well, we have corpses turning up on secluded coastlines, and scientists found dead in bird observatories. The result is a unique, almost surreal atmosphere that sets Shetland apart from other crime shows, making it a quintessential example of "Celtic Noir".

Matthew Rhys as Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy in Death Comes To Pemberley.

Matthew Rhys as Fitzwilliam Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy in Death Comes To Pemberley.


It was a stroke of genius to set a murder mystery in the genteel world of Jane Austen. After all, we already know that stately homes and whodunits go together like tea and scones (see: Marple, Lynley, Poirot, and too many other shows to mention). But add to that the rigid etiquette of Regency society, not to mention the hoity-toity characters, flamboyant fashions and rigid class structures, and you have the perfect context for a slow-burning whodunit.

Unfolding in a realm of grand, opulent estates, rolling fields and up-to-no-good aristocrats, Death Comes to Pemberley could easily have kickstarted a whole new genre of detective work. After all, when it comes to aloof and haughty sleuths, Mr Darcy could even show Sherlock Holmes a thing or too.

Nigel Le Vaillant as Dangerfield.

Nigel Le Vaillant as Dangerfield.


A bit of an unlikely inclusion, this. After all, one might reasonably argue that there's nothing particularly interesting about Dangerfield's ordinary rural England setting. But that's exactly why it IS brilliant. While some UK-based crime shows like Morse and Wycliffe are set in pointedly historic and landmark-filled settings like Oxford and Cornwall, Dangerfield boldly plants its flag in low-key Warwickshire.

It's a celebration of the ordinary beauty of England - the simple bliss of rolling greenery, wooded glades, the odd castle, and quiet towns where nothing much happens. Well, apart from the murders. The lots and lots of murders. You might call it... Death in a Very English Paradise.