There have been a lot of great crime shows in 2023. It sounds like a platitude, but when we opened this category for nominations we simply couldn’t have envisaged that this shortlist would emerge. The genre is popular and with all the streaming platforms plus the existing broadcasters catering to it, there has been so much to choose from.
Here is the list based on our readers’ nominations. See what you think and then cast your vote. Our editorial team will also be selecting an Editor’s Choice award in this category. To see all the other shortlists in our 2023 awards, follow this link. The link at the bottom of this article will take you to our online voting form.
Now, let’s have a look at the shortlisted crime shows…
Happy Valley S3
It’s been seven years since series two of Sally Wainwright’s gritty drama set in the mean streets of Hebden Bridge and other towns in West Yorkshire. Time for Catherine Cawood’s grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) to grow into a teenager flirting with manhood and for viewers to have forgotten all about what happened before. But no, this drama has etched itself into the memory of crime fiction lovers worldwide, and it soon became clear why Wainwright waited for a young lad to reach maturity. Ryan is central to everything that happens here, becoming curious about his father, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), the convicted killer who is Cawood’s bête noire. With Sarah Lancashire starring as Catherine Cawood, Happy Valley gives a whole new twisted meaning to family ties.
Only Murders in the Building S3
The third series of this tongue-in-cheek homage to true crime podcasters is definitely the best yet. The usual triple act of Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez are joined by Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd for a twisty and very funny tale of death and shenanigans behind the scenes of a new Broadway musical. Rudd plays Ben Glenroy, a movie star best known for his roles as a superhero, who has the starring role in a clunky drama being produced by Oliver (Short). When Glenroy is killed, the production pivots to a musical, with Charles (Martin) as a Gilbert and Sullivan-style policeman. Cue mayhem, dead ends, dramatic pauses and even a hint of romance as Oliver, Charles and Mabel (Gomez) try to solve the mystery and keep their podcast on the air. Only Murders in the Building is a show that never takes itself too seriously and is all the better for it.
Here’s an Australian crime programme that focuses on long-buried secrets – literally. When a time capsule from 1992 is opened, its contents shed light on the murder of a young woman around the time it was buried. The case is reopened and Queensland detective Jack Cormack (Travis Fimmel) starts looking into Isabel’s death. The story is told via two timelines. One is the story of Isabel (Talijah Blackman-Corowa) just before she was killed, the other that of Jack and his investigation. It seems as though everyone in this sugar farming community is caught up in a web of lies and Jack himself has secrets. Beautifully shot, powerfully acted, and with strong themes of entitlement, exploitation and prejudice, Black Snow is a superb miniseries and CFL readers really took to it.
Crime (Irvine Welsh) S2
Dark, heavy, dramatic – Irvine Welsh’s Crime doesn’t hold back. Set in Edinburgh, it has Dougray Scott in the main role of DI Ray Lennox, a cop constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. As established in the first series, Lennox is a recovering addict on a righteous mission to catch and incarcerate the monsters out there – sexual predators like whoever it was that raped him as a boy. When the mutilated body of a man is found, Lennox finds himself up against a vicious yet very clever serial killer with a righteous mission of their own. To his right, staunchly feminist DS Amanda Drummond (Joanna Vanderham), to his left, the lascivious misogynist DI Tommy Stark (David Elliott). There’s no varnish here, and anything that looks even slightly cosy has been taken in evidence for the bodily fluids it’s absorbed. Brutal. Disturbing. Irreverent. For many, this is perfect television.
Dead Lions (Slow Horses S2)
There are no series two nerves in evidence with Dead Lions – the second season of Apple TV+’s adaptation of Mick Herron’s multi-award-winning Slow Horses books, and this time, the team is on high alert after a former spy is found dead. This is ensemble acting at its best, with Gary Oldman leading the way as the odious and odiously devious Jackson Lamb, boss of Slough House where failed MI5 spies are sent to moulder away. Anyone who has read the novels will find these versions hugely satisfying – and newbies will be blown away by the clever originality of the plots and the excellent performances from the aforementioned Oldman, Jack Lowden as River Cartwright, Saskia Reeves as Catherine Standish and Kristin Scott-Thomas as Diana Taverner to name but a handful. Season three has begun airing and a fourth outing is promised.
Astrid: Murder in Paris S2
We know not just from our awards nominations but from our site traffic analysis that Astrid is a huge favourite for readers of Crime Fiction Lover. This French programme is a little quirky and the cases investigated are – quite frankly – a bit mad. But people love watching Sara Mortensen portraying Astrid Nielsen, the autistic archivist who works at the criminal records bureau in Paris and helps Raphaëlle Coste (Lola Dewaere) solve crimes. Astrid is something of a savant, and sees the world very differently to Raph, but somehow they are able to work together and form a friendship. When cases become complex Raph needs Astrid, otherwise she can’t solve them. Astrid: Murder in Paris is proof that Crime Fiction Lovers are more than receptive to neurodivergent characters, and season two will bring a tear to your eye on more than one occasion. There will be more soon.