TV’s Most Haunted Detectives

Whether they’re stalked by ghosts from their past, or reliving traumas that shaped their careers, these sleuths have much more on their minds than simply snaring murderers…

Dr Blake

Dr Lucien Blake, of Dr Blake Mysteries, is haunted by old scars from his past


With his poised bedside manner, natty suits and impeccably trimmed salt-and-pepper beard, Dr Lucien Blake may seem like he has everything in his life worked out. But the eponymous hero of the Dr Blake Mysteries is far from OK. He is, after all, a battle-scarred veteran of global conflict. Before taking over his father's medical practice in 50s Australia, Lucien Blake served in the Far East during the carnage of World War Two, and it certainly left its mental scars on the good doctor.

As well as seeing combat, he served time in a POW camp, enduring the greatest cruelties imaginable. And as if that wasn't enough, he lost his wife and child during the fall of Singapore. So it's actually a bit of a miracle that Dr Blake feels mentally well enough to crack cases in Australia, and the memories of his experiences of war and bereavement still weigh heavily on him.

John Hannah as DI John Rebus.

John Hannah as DI John Rebus.


How do we know Rebus is haunted? There are some tell-tale signs. First, he likes to sit in dark corners of pubs, nursing pints while gazing into the abyss (metaphorically speaking). Then there's the way he smokes. Every angry drag of a cigarette hints at some inner turmoil which is destined never to be resolved (or even spoken about). He's an old school kind of copper, is Rebus, and doesn't go in for all the "share your feelings" nonsense. But you know all is not well in his head.

Little wonder, when you consider his turf. The dark underbelly of Edinburgh, a realm of dingy alleyways populated by gun runners, neo-Nazis gangs and serial killers with names like The Preacher. Somehow, despite being almost physically weighed down by the terrible things he sees, Rebus gets through it all. Probably because there's always the promise of that pint in that pub.

Nigel Le Vaillant as Paul Dangerfield.

Nigel Le Vaillant as Paul Dangerfield.


With his dashing, wholesome handsomeness and cushy dual job as a GP and police medic in rural Warwickshire, Paul Dangerfield looks like just about the most un-haunted sleuth imaginable. You can't really see him brooding in a dive bar, a la Rebus. Indeed, the only bit of agonizing he's surely likely to do is wondering whether the peaches are ripe in his local Waitrose. Right?

Wrong. Dangerfield, like his fellow detective physician Dr Blake, is a man of hidden torment. He lost his wife out of the blue, in a hideous car accident which left him a shell-shocked single father to two teenage kids. While he does his best to hold things together, his deep sadness is always there, trembling beneath his suave surface. And the continuing tribulations of his family - from his son's involvement in a shooting, to his daughter becoming bereaved all over again - mean he's destined never to get back to "normal". Whatever normal is.

Ken Stott as Red Metcalfe.

Ken Stott as Red Metcalfe.


Even if Red Metcalfe was a man of cloudless mental serenity, he'd have his sanity sorely tested by the vicious, sadistic cases we see in Messiah. A typical day in the life of this detective involves corpses with their tongues torn out, and grisly maimings inspired by Dante's Inferno. But Red would have his private anguish even without all these macabre experiences. Because he once put his own brother Eric away for murder.

Eric, an unstable and neurotic lad, had taken a beautiful girl home after a night out, only to kill her in a fit of frustration after she refused his advances. Red had no choice but to call the police on his own brother - but doing the right thing filled him with such guilt that Red had flashbacks to that rainy night for years afterwards. The very sight of rain itself would make Red jittery and unable to think straight. And yet more mental trauma awaited Red when Eric was himself murdered in a later case...

Sharon Small as Barbara Havers.

Sharon Small as Barbara Havers.


Sure, the show is called The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, but it could equally have been dubbed The Barbara Havers Miseries. OK, that's probably a bit unfair, because Havers isn't angry, snappy and despondent ALL of the time. Just the majority of the time. We can't really blame her, though. She's a woman who's been fighting her private battles for decades.

Casual sexism and class snobbery made their mark on Havers, who developed a default reaction to every possible social encounter: one of tight-lipped, prickly suspicion. The only person who manages to soothe her a tiny bit is Lynley, but the moments never last long. And when Havers was demoted back to uniform after one case, it just seemed to prove her hostility was well-placed. Good luck to any therapist trying to sort through all of that baggage...