ROSEMARY AND THYME
Gardening. It's nice, isn't it? It makes you think of relaxed Sunday afternoons. The gentle burble of garden centres. Flowers, trowels and Titchmarsh. But, if you're Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, gardening also tends to involve unexpected mysteries, buried bones, and anonymous letters saying things like "Stay away from the herb garden or you die". Honestly, Monty Don never had to put up with this.
To be fair, Laura Thyme used to be a proper, real-life, full-time police officer, once upon a time. But, after she and expert botanist Rosemary Boxer cross paths at a very pleasant hotel, they decide to embrace a new, idyllic life as professional gardeners, thinking they'll have to deal with nothing worse than stubborn weeds and obnoxious rich clients who have highly specific opinions on patios.
Instead, the plucky pair have a worrying/exciting knack of stumbling into crime scenes wherever they go, whether they're working on water features at luxury spas or poking about people's allotments. Fortunately, they're as good at detective work as they are at landscaping. And, amazingly, they still manage to stay chirpy and have enthusiastic conversations about rare orchids and Japanese knotweed, even though so many people around them wind up pushing up daisies.
Poor Boon. All he ever wanted to be was a gunslinging hero of the Old West, but he was born in the wrong time and the wrong place. But, being in 1980s West Midlands instead of 1880s Arizona doesn't mean the man can't dream of being the Lone Ranger. Instead of the horse he's got a motorbike, and instead of the mask he's got driving goggles. And he's also a dab hand when it comes to being a real-life superhero.
Once a firefighter, Boon lost his job after injuring himself while rescuing a child from a burning building, the big heroic lunk. Odd jobs have followed, including running his own commercial market garden (Rosemary and Thyme would have approved) and becoming a courier and all-round good egg for hire.
As part of his succession of odd jobs, Boon finds himself almost accidentally solving crimes and helping the innocent. These aren't your average sleuthing shenanigans, though. Example cases include recovering a lion that's been abducted from a circus, protecting a pop star's son from her vengeful ex-husband, and dealing with an escaped convict hiding in a canal boat. Through it all, he still manages to set up and run his "Texas Rangers" courier firm, proving you can be a part-time hero and still hold down a slightly tedious day job. Inspiration for all of us, then.
He may be the owner of the Pie in the Sky restaurant, but Henry Crabbe is the odd one out on this list, because he's still also technically a detective by profession. It's a bit of a long story, but basically he's too good a sleuth for the police to ever let him go, so poor Henry keeps getting reluctantly dragged back into formal investigations when he'd really much rather be reading recipes rather than crime reports, and kneading dough rather than nicking wrong 'uns.
Yes, Henry Crabbe's real life's purpose is serving up delicious dishes like his fabled steak and kidney pie. And the real villains, as far as he's concerned? People who actually enjoy prawn cocktail crisps. Unfortunately for Henry, he has bigger challenges to deal with than correcting people's poor palates, what with all the murderers, kidnappers and con artists in need of snaring.
Still, no matter how many serious crimes he has to crack, Henry always has his restaurant on his mind - whether it's dealing with waiter issues, snobby diners and the importance of baking the best artisan loaves. His two careers do often intersect, though, like when his trout supplier's wife vanishes, or when Henry begins to have deep suspicions about his cheesemonger's secret agenda. And we're not talking about selling off Dairylea as aged Camembert...
A mild-mannered, middle-aged priest in a quiet Costwold village may not be everyone's idea of a tough crime fighter, but there's far more to Father Brown than meets the eye. He's a war veteran for one thing, having served in the dark days of World War One. He's also got some serious sass to him, and can out-clever almost everyone around him (including local copper, Inspector Valentine, who is eternally miffed that this unassuming clergyman is really, really good at bagging bad guys).
The good priest is also utterly fearless - one case even sees Father Brown get himself committed at a mental hospital to unravel a mystery. It's just as well, because his parish has a body count to rival the mean streets of Midsomer. Whether it's local bigwigs getting electrocuted at village fetes or nuns being poisoned with cyanide, there's enough going on here to keep a full-time detective busy, let alone a priest who also has to keep up with his actual job of deliver sermons and eating tea and cake with the local biddies. Ah well, at least he's never called upon to do anything truly odd like performing an exorcism, right? (Our mistake: he is.)