The best crime shows of 2018

A lot of crime shows were watched by members of our team in 2018. We had an expert with his ear to the ground at some of the top television festivals, we had people scanning Netflix and Amazon, the BBC and ITV, and a feed from the US networks, Australia and Scandinavia. There’s definitely a sense that crime TV is in the ascendancy. That could be in response to the huge popularity of crime novels, or to the changing nature of television with the likes of Netflix and Amazon investing heavily in big series with in-depth storylines. There aren’t that many shows these days where the story is wrapped up in one episode, and our favourites reflect this.

Of course, our 2018 list is just as subjective the one we created in 2017. You might have loved Informer or Ozark more than any of the picks we made, or you might be wondering why there aren’t so many subtitled programmes this year with international crime shows gaining so much momentum. Please do add your suggestions in the comments below so that readers can enjoy the crime show gems you have discovered.

Right, it’s time to tune in…

10 – Before We Die

This Swedish crime show, available on Walter Presents, was a surprise hit with Crime Fiction Lover readers. Similar to Beck and Arne Dahl in its vibe, Before We Die is an urban thriller set in Stockholm and, alongside the brutal murder of a cop, features plenty of family tension. Hanna Svensson (Marie Richardson) is about to be rolled out of the police force for retirement, but the fellow cop she’s having an affair with is kidnapped by gangsters. Meanwhile, we learn that Hanna is such a stickler for the rules that she had her own son Christian (Adam Pålsson) arrested on drugs charges and he’s even done time. Now he’s been released, it seems he’s in contact with someone shady. It turns out he could help his mother with the case of the missing cop, but with what’s passed between them, will he even want to? Read more here.
Watch it here

9 – Mystery Road

There’s a lot to love about this six-episode Australian crime show, including scenes in which Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) is pointing his weapon, even though the pace drags in one or two places. Detective Swan is an Aboriginal cop with a past but when he turns up in Patterson he has one thing on his mind – finding out what happened to two workers missing from a cattle station in the Outback. One was an Aboriginal boy with a promising career ahead of him playing Aussie Rules football. The other was more of a maverick backpacker – perhaps on the run from something. Swan partners with the head of police Emma James (Judy Davis), whose family just so happens to own the cattle station in question. It’s a story that weaves in Australia’s sorry history in race relations, drug trafficking, substance abuse and a sexual assault case that might have been a miscarriage of justice. Some amazing shots of the vast landscape and its diverse inhabitants all wrapped up in a tough crime drama.
Watch it here

8 – Keeping Faith

The incredible and rugged beauty of the Carmarthenshire coastline is the backdrop for this tense Welsh crime drama, which strikes a very different tone to anything we’ve ever seen before. Central to the show’s success is Faith Howells (Eve Myles), whose husband Evan has gone missing. Both Faith and Evan are solicitors but as she looks into the firm’s affairs she finds a picture of financial mismanagement. Is that why Evan has disappeared? Or does it have something to do with the murder case he defended recently involving a major crime family in nearby Swansea? As well as the mystery itself, Keeping Faith plays excellently on its main character. The pain of Evan’s disappearance brings up all manner of insecurities and strengths in Faith as well as in other members of the family. A few family secrets come bobbing up like seals on the shoreline as well… Alongside Hinterland and Hidden, it’s another bilingual hit for the BBC, and Keeping Faith was previewed here.
Watch it here

7 – The Sinner

This eight-part crime series set in New York State crept up on American viewers earlier this year and is now becoming a hit on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s not like most US shows, and that could be because it’s based on the German novel of the same name by Petra Hammesfahr. The crime when it happens is swift, bloody and visceral, as young mother Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) unexpectedly leaps on a young man and stabs him in the throat with a fruit knife. Seven incisions later and he bleeds out right there on the beach in front of her husband and young daughter. Bill Pullman plays Detective Harry Ambrose who starts looking into Cora’s case because nobody, not even the killer herself, can explain it. It seems as though the stabbing was triggered by music played on an iPhone that resonated with something in Cora’s past. Has she got some form of PTSD or a repressed memory? There are no car chases or gun battles here, just a slow and increasingly unnerving unravelling of what’s going on in the sinner’s mind. Season two has already been shown in the US, to similar fanfare.
Watch it here

6 – Bosch season 4

Amazon Prime’s highly regarded adaptation of the Bosch books reached series 4 this year, with 10 episodes based around Angels Flight by Michael Connelly. Titus Welliver now fully inhabits the skin of Harry Bosch, so much so that it’s hard not to picture him as you read the books. There’s plenty of drama here as high profile black lawyer Howard Elias, a man whose role in life is to expose police brutality and corruption in the LAPD, is found murdered on the Angels Flight funicular railway. Harry is called on to find the killer, but his personal life is about to throw him off his stroke. Look out for some wonderful scenes with Madison Lintz, who plays his daughter, Maddie. Good news for fans is that series five just wrapped up in LA and will be based on the 2017 novel Two Kinds of Truth
Watch it here

5 – The Cry

If you want domestic noir drama that will grip your heart in its mean fist and squeeze hard, then this BBC adaptation of the crime novel by Helen FitzGerald nails it. We are talking gut-wrenching pain here as parents Joanna and Alistair take a trip to Australia hoping to pick up his daughter by a previous relationship and bring her back to Glasgow with them. On the way they stop at a minimart and their infant son Noah goes missing, mysteriously swiped from their SUV. In the glare of publicity, these new parents – she’s a schoolteacher, he’s a PR whiz – must first appeal for help, and eventually perhaps begin grieving their loss. But all is not as it seems. Was Noah loved and wanted? What’s up with Alistair’s ex-wife? And why are we being shown scenes of Joanna on trial? Watch The Cry and find out – you won’t regret it.
Watch it here

4 – Bodyguard

This high-powered BBC drama is one that had a nation of crime fiction lovers addicted. Yes, it had its flaws, but it was impossible to miss an episode. Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) is a Met cop on security detail who is given the task of protecting the controversial home secretary Julia Montague (Keely Hawes). Considerably sexier than any home secretary in living memory, her politics are not that attractive to Budd but he is soon in her bed. Their affair is almost a sideshow, though, as a bombing campaign kicks off around London, assassins try to kill Montague, the police want her bodyguard to spy on her, and MI5 is feeding her information about her enemies. Although political, it paints the issues with a broad brush while making up for that with tough action and some tender romance too. With Brexit and all the other shenanigans going on in the world, this is a slick crime show that provides a well-needed distraction while also bringing the hammer down on some big issues such as the surveillance state, terrorism, mental health and political corruption.
Watch it here

3 – The Bridge season 4

Brilliant Scandinavian crime shows are fewer and further between these days. Perhaps things have moved on. The Bridge bowed out in style with an unforgettable series that starts off with Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) in prison as Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt) begins investigating the brutal stoning to death of a Danish immigration official. The suspect is an immigrant who was meant to be sent back to the Middle East, but he also needs to locate a member of the radical leftist organisation Red October. Saga is eventually freed and wants to go straight back to work, straight away giving the case the boost of logical policing that it needs. Though she finds it hard to relate to others, she reevaluates her life and her relationship with Henrik, and also uses her detective skills to search for the missing wife and daughters he has been hallucinating about throughout the series to this point. Will all those threads, those memories, those feelings finally be resolved across these eight poignant episodes? You’ve simply got to watch this joint Swedish and Danish crime show.
Watch it here

2 – Killing Eve

Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) is a low level MI6 operative doing more research than field work, but she’s spotted a pattern in certain assassinations that have taken place at locations across Europe. This isn’t a procedural, and the pattern isn’t all that important, but she happens to be right and each unique killing was indeed committed by the same agent. Eve’s fervour gets her dropped from the case and booted out of her department but she’s picked up by an unsanctioned espionage operation which thrusts her into the unlikely role of an international agent. Meanwhile, the assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) develops a fascination with Eve. It’s love, in a way, and throughout this Euro noir thriller there’s a sense that they’re destined to meet and that there will be fireworks when they do. There are moles and botched killings, weird kidnappings and there’s even an escape from a Russian prison. Killing Eve is a BBC production you won’t be able to take your eyes off. The action is pacy, there’s a sexy vibe to it, and it has a suitably alternative soundtrack. And, it was based on the book Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings.
Watch it here

1 – Unforgotten season 3

The third series of ITV’s cold case crime drama Unforgotten had the highest ratings yet, and rightly so. The programme proves that a deep procedural investigation can pack an emotional punch, and you won’t find a better all-round crime show made in 2018. It begins when workmen making improvements to the M1 motorway in London uncover the skeletal remains of a teenage girl. A surgical plate on one of her bones leads DCI Cassie Stewart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) to the victim’s identity. Hayley Reid went missing from a seaside town on New Years Eve in 1999. In an era of police cuts, is it worth it for Cassie and Sunny to investigate? You bet it is. Director Chris Lang has you guessing every step of the way as the pair follow up a whole range of leads. The girl’s family. Local druggies. A group of high fliers who were holidaying in the area with their families. The focus of their suspicion swerves this way and that. What’s brilliant about this programme, aside from the doggedness and humanity of the detectives, is the how close we get to all the suspects. We find out nearly everything about them along the way, but only learn whether or not they did it at the very end. Crazy shit happens in everyone’s life, nothing’s ever black and white, and here’s an utterly gripping series that reflects this.
Watch it here

Find out about our favourite crime shows of 2017 here.

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