Mysteries: Television and Film

prime suspect NCIS

Boots squelch into a muddy English field. Portable lights glare onto a battered, corpse. Detective Chief Superintendent Jane Tennison – irascible, exhausted, possibly hung over – leans into the scene and snarls "what've we got, lads?" We are in the realm of the mystery and no none does it better than Prime Suspect.

Television has always had an unquenchable thirst for mystery and crime shows. Recent hit shows on American TV include NCIS, The Following, True Detective, Breaking Bad, Hannibal, Dexter, Castle, Rizzoli and Isles, The Killing, Justified, The Mentalist, NCIS, Person of Interest, The Blacklist, Fargo and the multiplying incarnations of Law and Order and C.S.I.

On line, Netflix offers the critically acclaimed hits Narcos and the French policier Marseilles, while Amazon has turned Michael Connelly's L.A. homicide detective hero Bosch into an original series.

British television continues to produce some of the most compelling crime and mystery shows in the world. Standouts include Broadchurch, Case Histories, Foyle's War, Endeavour (a young Inspector Morse), eponymous series featuring Inspectors Alleyn, Lewis, Lynley, River and Luther, Line of Duty, The Fall, and the rebooted Sherlock starring the permanently employed Benedict Cumberpatch.

The Scandinavians are making their world-weary mark on television as well. Recent Nordic shows include Forbrydelsen (the original Danish version of the "The Killing"), The Bridge and Wallender.

Hollywood movies have largely abandoned the mystery genre in favor of branded entertainment such as sequels, comic book heroes and CGI-dependent fantasy stories that can be marketed worldwide, free from cultural quirks that don't travel well. [A top secret jungle ammo cache guarded by robots explodes pretty much the same in every language.]

So if mystery is the genre that moves you, I advise trying a novel or a television script.

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