‘Agatha Christie’s Marple,’ ‘Father Brown’ and Other Cozy British Mysteries to Stream Right Now
If there’s one thing the British do well, it’s mysteries. From the tales of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to dark detective series like Luther and The Fall, the U.K. seems to serve up an endless buffet of murder and mayhem. But what if you’re in the mood for some fictional crime that isn’t quite as bleak as, say, Broadchurch (a pair of detectives investigate the murder of a child) or Happy Valley (a female police officer tracks down the man who sexually assaulted her daughter)? Then it’s time for a cozy mystery.
Cozy mystery TV series (and the books on which they’re often based) deliver stories of murder in a quaint, comforting package. While they can take place anywhere, the setting is often a picturesque English village or other spot with a small cast of (quirky) characters. The detective is typically an amateur who sees things the police don’t spot. There’s usually some gentle humor and a distinct lack of blood, guts, and sex. In other words, they’re the television equivalent of a nice cup of tea rather than a glass of whiskey. If you’d like to tip your toe into this soothing genre, check out these shows.
‘Agatha Christie’s Marple’
Christie was the leading lady of British crime novels, and spinster sleuth Jane Marple is one of her most memorable creations. She lives in the village of St. Mary Mead, where she uses her keen intelligence to solve various crimes, frequently involving posh people who live in fancy houses.
The character has appeared on-screen numerous times, including in Agatha Christie’s Marple. It ran from 2004 to 2013, first with Geraldine McEwan in the title role, and then with Julia McKenzie. Twenty-three feature-length episodes are streaming on Hulu. On BritBox, you can also find the earlier BBC series Miss Marple, which ran from 1984 to 1992 and starred Joan Hickson in the title role.
‘Rosemary and Thyme’
Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) are a pair of gardening detectives (yes, really) who puzzle out mysteries while also solving horticultural problems. Three seasons streaming on BritBox.
Catholic priest Father Brown (Mark Williams) solves crimes in the small Cotswolds town of Kembleford in this series inspired by stories by G.K. Chesterton. Six seasons are streaming on Netflix until March 31. Season 7 is streaming on BritBox.
Ashley Jensen plays Agatha Raisin, a PR professional who trades her life in London for an early retirement in the charming village of Carsley, where she starts a new career as an amateur detective. Three seasons are streaming on Acorn TV.
In this series from the 1990s, Derek Jacobi plays a medieval monk who settles down at Shrewsbury Abbey after an eventful and restless youth. Once there, he’s called upon to investigate various crimes. Four seasons streaming on Amazon Prime.
Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is an Anglican vicar who teams up with his friend and police detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green) to solve crimes. (Tom Britteny took over as the new vicar in the most recent season.) Grantchester features a smidge more sex and violence than some other shows on this list and tends to add more social commentary, but it will appeal to those looking for a mix of period drama and mystery. Four seasons streaming on PBS Passport.
The long-running Midsomer Murders (21 seasons and counting) focuses on a police detective rather than an amateur sleuth, so purists might not consider this a true cozy mystery. However, the outwardly peaceful village setting and eccentric cast of characters fit the bill. Nineteen seasons are streaming for free on IMDbTV, or watch all episodes on Acorn TV or BritBox.