The countdown begins!
If 2017 had a feeling of more quantity than genuine, shining quality, 2018 came back with a bang – such was the high standard of so many different crime dramas, shown on so many different channels and streaming services, it made it very difficult to narrow everything down to a favourite final 20.
But narrow it down we did.
As ever, before we kick off the rundown, we like to doff our cap to the ones who didn’t quite make it – all fine series in their own right, but not quite up to the standard the top 20 exhibited or required. We enjoyed Jack Thorne’s Kiri on Channel 4; Australian series Mystery Road on BBC Four; the final series of The Tunnel on Sky Atlantic; Indian crime drama Sacred Games on Netflix; Endeavour on ITV, which proved there was still life in (young) Morse yet; Mr Mercedes on STARZPlay; Walter Presents’ Before We Die, Rebecka Martinsson and the final series of Dicte; the ever-reliable Bosch on Amazon Prime; and were beguiled by BBC Two’s inconsistent and bonkers Picnic At Hanging Rock. Add in series like Hap & Leonard and you have to say that 2018 was an excellent year.
But now for our Top 20… strap yourselves in!
The Celtic favourite was back on our screens for a fourth series this year, which saw Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) faced with one of his most difficult and personal cases yet. Initially, he had two conundrums: when Thomas Malone (Stephen Walters, on superb form) was released from prison after his conviction for murder was overturned, Jimmy was forced to reopen the case of the death of Lizzie Kilmuir. Also, local journalist Sally McColl was found strangled to death, in what looked like a copycat of the Lizzie Kilmuir case. Was Thomas Malone to blame? The local community certainly thought so, and Jimmy was forced to deal with vigilantism, the prospect of Duncan being involved and also a lead that meant a trip to Norway for him and Tosh. This could have been the best Shetland series so far.
TO READ ALL OUR NEWS AND REVIEWS OF SHETLAND CLICK HERE
19 La Peste
This inventive Spanish thriller came to our shores with little to no fanfare, but like the deadly virus it documented at the heart of its story, it wasn’t long before the country succumbed to its dark charms. A heady mix of political tensions and murderous intent cast against the backdrop of a country ravaged by plague, not only did La Peste look amazing (thanks to a hefty budget that meticulously recreated 16th-century Seville, which was spectacularly grubby and realistic), it also took a well-worn serial killer plot and transported it to a time in history that has been rarely documented on television. As such, it truly stood out as something unique in a year of identical crime dramas.
FOR ALL OUR REVIEWS OF LA PESTE CLICK HERE
18 The Alienist
If this lavish-looking period crime drama looked familiar, you weren’t mistaken – there were elements of Sherlock Holmes, Ripper Street, Murdoch Mysteries and Dickens in this gruesome but gorgeously grimy tale, set in 19th– century New York. With the new century looming, a serial killer was at work in the city’s underworld, butchering young boys in ceremonial and brutal fashion. Tasked with capturing the monster was Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), a new-fangled criminal psychologist convinced that to find him he would have to look into the abyss and understand the killer’s psychopathy. Joining him on his obsessive search were flawed illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), ambitious police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and, on the periphery, NYPD forensics experts Marcus and Lucious Isaacson. As the team peeled back the layers of urban depravity – think molly houses, child prostitution and police and church corruption – Kreizler’s sociopathic, obsessive search almost destroyed the team around him, as well as himself.
FOR OUR REVIEW OF THE ALIENIST CLICK HERE
17 Deadwind (Karppi)
With The Bridge now sadly in the rearview mirror, we needed a new female Nordic crime star, and in Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala) we might have just found one. Karppi had everything we require from a Nordic Noir: moody cityscapes (this time Helsinki), a tormented female lead and a vaguely socio-political backstory. Returning to Finland with her two children after the accidental death of her husband in Germany, Karppi was a woman on the edge – streetwise, abrasive, emotional and trying to juggle her obsession with finding the killer of a young woman found on a construction site with bringing up two children and dealing with stomach-dissolving grief and guilt. It was atmospheric, involving stuff, and one to watch when it comes to the future of Nordic Noir.
TO READ OUR REVIEW OF DEADWIND CLICK HERE
16 Ordeal By Innocence
Sarah Phelps’ Agatha Christie adaptations have been a revelation, imbuing Christie’s original stories with gritty social context and giving each project greater emotional depth – something that Christie’s stories sometimes lacked. Each adaptation has been different, but for Ordeal By Innocence we were back to the single-location whodunit, and a Golden Age setting that looked like a sumptuous, gauzy daydream. Peer behind the deep, velvet curtains of the quintessentially upper-class mansion house, Sunny Point, however, and we found petty jealousies, dark familial dynamics and pernicious manipulation aplenty. The Argyll family was mourning the murder of matriarch Rachel days earlier (Anna Chancellor, on sublime form) but as time ticked by, we got to learn that the Argylls were dysfunctional in the extreme – they hated each other and were all desperate to gain Rachel’s love and attention. It was just a question of how far each one was willing to go to get it. Another terrific adaptation.
TO READ OUR REVIEWS OF ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE CLICK HERE