The best crime shows of 2014

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While the main focus of Crime Fiction Lover has always been on books, books and more books, we do love crime fiction television too. And films, apps and games for that matter. In fact, one of the most popular articles on our site is our listing of the 20 all time greatest crime shows. It’s great when we get to see some of our favourite literary detectives – from Morse to Vera and from Holmes to Wexford – appear on the small screen, but this year only one of our favourite shows is based on published crime books. Maybe, like The Killing, it’ll be the other way around for some of the others…

HappyValley2506 – Happy Valley
Screenwriter Sally Wainwright of Scott and Bailey fame came up with another crime hit in 2014. The ironic title refers to the problems of drugs and poverty in a small West Yorkshire town policed by the feisty middle-aged sergeant Catherine Cahill, brilliantly played by former Coronation Street star Sarah Lancashire. A disillusioned accountant dreams up a plot to kidnap his boss’s daughter, but it all gets out of hand in a mix of dark comedy, impeccable characterisation and very grim outcomes. James Norton is mesmerizing as sociopath Tommy Lee, a world away from his role as a mild vicar in Grantchester. TV Choice Best New Drama, Specsavers Crime Thriller Best TV Series and Best Supporting Actor, British Screenwriters’s Best TV Drama… the awards have piled up.
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wallander2505 – Wallander Season 3
Followers of the original Swedish Wallander TV series have come to see the brilliant and grumpy cop played by Krister Henrickson as a close friend. The superb photography and location shooting of the series have us all wanting to join a Wallander tour in Sweden’s coastal town of Ystad. This final season is the swan song of our hero, and more poignant still is the soul-searching that went on behind the scenes following the death of Johanna Sällström, who portrayed Wallander’s daughter Linda in the previous series. Krister Henricksson is not the only actor to have played the well worn detective, but he is the best. He really delivers in the final, tearful season.
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Thefall2004 – The Fall Season 2
Set in Belfast, The Fall is a serial killer story that has confounded all sorts of expectations. It stars Gillian Anderson as an English detective who’s both a fastidious investigator and something of a free thinker, and she does so convincingly, down to Stella Gibson’s plummy accent. Gibson is on the trail of the very cunning, creepy and charismatic Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan, who turns in an equally excellent performance. His fetish is for strangling professional women with long dark hair and pale skin. Unlike many programmes, he gets away at the end of the first series and so season two continues their cat and mouse game.
Watch now on Amazon

TheBridge2503 – The Bridge Season 2
Aspurgers Swedish investigator Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) teams up once again with her Danish counterpart Martin Rodhe after a boat crashes into the Oresund containing five dying 20-somethings. An extremist group wearing animal masks appears to be responsible and they carry out similar terror attacks which highlight global environmental and ethical issues. Both Noren and Rodhe face various personal problems along the way – the former can’t seem to live with her boyfriend, and the latter can’t live without his wife, who has exiled him to a hotel. There is also the shadow of his murdered son August, and Rodhe’s need to understand why that happened. Season three has been promised…
Watch now on Amazon

truedetective5402 – True Detective
Homicide detectives Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughy) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) are being interviewed about a case they solved back in the 1990s, when a woman’s naked body was found with antlers attached to her head and other strange occult signs at the scene. Their pursuit of the killer is extremely difficult as their main suspect is off the grid, and takes them across a hot and humid Louisiana landscape populated by meth heads, biker gangs, Baptist congregations, prostitutes and the rural poor. Texture, atmosphere, story – all brilliantly conjured. True Detective is the best Southern noir to appear on television, and a second season is planned, with a new cast. Read our review of writer Nic Pizzolatto’s book Galveston, here.
Watch now on Amazon

fargo3001 – Fargo
Brutal, funny, brutally funny, and thankfully scheduled for a second season, Fargo is based on the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film of the same name. While the 2014 TV series recreates the movie’s overall feel and quirky Minnesota setting, it introduces a new set of noir characters which make every episode utterly compelling. Browbeaten insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) meets hitman Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) by chance – the former goes home and kills his awful wife, the latter goes and kills a mob-connected local trucking magnate as a favour to Lester. The only effective police officer in the town of Bermidji is Deputy Molly Solverson (Alison Tolman) and she teams up with Duluth cop Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) to catch both of them.
Watch now on Amazon

Read our article on the all time greatest 20 TV crime shows here.


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