In the Mood for Murder? Choose Your Plucky Acorn TV Lady DetectivePhotos Courtesy of Acorn TV TV Lists Acorn TV
No longer an upstart in the niche streaming space, Acorn TV has successfully made itself the home for cozy (mostly British, mostly lady-led) mysteries. In fact, it offers so many different cozy titles at this point that, pretty much no matter what kind of experience you might be in the mood for, there’s a plucky lady detective ready to answer the call. Whimsy? Got it. High fashion? That, too. High adventure? And how!
To that end, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite plucky lady detectives from Acorn TV exclusives below. Most are British, some are Australian, but none are gritty anti-heroines. This is to say that, while Rebecka Martinsson (Rebecka Martinsson), Vera Stanhope (Vera), and all the no-nonsense ladies of No Offence are all dependable (and watchable!) detectives in their own right, their place isn’t on this particular list.
Rules in place, let’s go!
The Young & the Restless
The Real (Storybook) Deal
Lady Detective: Matilda Stone, Queens of Mystery
Played by: Olivia Vinall (Series 1), Florence Hall (Series 2)
The only *official* police detective on this list, Queens of Mystery’s Mattie Stone is the one to watch if you like your investigators smart, sharply dressed, and a little bit melancholy. Could “smart, sharply dressed, and a little bit melancholy” easily describe half the detectives in Acorn’s non-cozy mystery stable? Sure! (Looking at you, Bang.) But in this particular case, Mattie Stone’s melancholy is wrapped up in a Candyland color palette, Juliet Stevenson’s Pushing Daisies-style storybook narration, and a missing-mother mystery that plays like a whimsical (if sad) fairy tale.
The Spitfire Driver
Lady Detective: Sam Stewart, Foyle’s War
Played by: Honeysuckle Weeks
Originally sent over to Detective Foyle on temporary loan from her wartime post in the Mechanized Transport Corps, military driver Sam Stewart is the gal to watch if you like your investigators bright, no-nonsense, and chattily ambitious. While the post-war seasons seem to lose sight of these core pieces of her character, she is easily the heart of the series’ original run.
The Groovy Independent Gal
Lady Detective: Peregrine Fisher, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries
Played by: Geraldine Hakewill
As both a lady detective in historic Melbourne and a cozy mystery protagonist on Acorn TV, Miss Phryne Fisher set an impossibly high bar. How lucky are we all, then, that her fictional niece, one Ms. Peregrine Fisher, has the legs (and go-go boots) to leap high enough to match it. The Platonic ideal of “plucky,” Peregrine is your gal if you like your mysteries solved by a combination of brash confidence, flirtatious fun, and the regular reminder that being an Adventuress is as high a calling as anyone could hope to follow.
Her Gal Friday
Lady Detective: Dot Williams, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Old School)/Madison Feliciano, My Life is Murder (New School)
Played by: Ashleigh Cummings (Dottie), Ebony Vagulans (Madison)
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They may not be full-fledged detectives in their own right (yet), but in falling into the whirlwinds that are their respective lady detective mentors—the sultry Miss Fisher in the first case; the cranky Alexa Crowe in the second—both Dot (Cummings) and Madison (Vagulans) have found themselves on the path they were always meant for. If what you want is to watch someone seize that path, knowing in their bones it’s the right one for them, Madison’s your gal. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to take the slow road, watching as it gradually dawns on someone that their life could be so much bigger than what they had ever dreamed for themselves, well, Dottie’s right there, waiting for you to follow.
The Meddlesome and Mature
The Aristocratic Adventurer
Lady Detective: Phryne Fisher, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Played by: Essie Davis
Speaking of the sultry Miss Fisher: here, at last, is Phryne, herself. Better dressed than Louise Brooks, better traveled than Indiana Jones, and a better shot than all but maybe one of the Melbourne constabulary, Phryne is a paragon of independence, confidence, and sex positivity, all wrapped up in a genius for untangling the deadliest of puzzles. Honestly, it would be hard to find a mood not suited to watch her in.
The Auntie Literati
Lady Detective: Cat, Beth, and Jane Stone, Queens of Mystery
Played by: Julie Graham, Sarah Woodward, Siobhan Redmond
A punk rocker, a brainy bookseller, and a flirty freelance columnist, the three Aunts Stone really deserve individual billing. But as it’s one of the series’ storybook framing devices to treat them as a single unit, both in their familial support of Mattie and as a secret obstacle to her solving the mystery of her missing mother, that’s how we’ll treat them, too. True meddlers, this is the trio to stream if you’ve always thought that your love for mystery novels might give you enough of an edge to excuse ignoring every boundary put up by both your niece and your tiny (if fantastically dependable) local police force.
The Curmudgeonly Baker
Lady Detective: Alexa Crowe, My Life is Murder
Played by: Lucy Lawless
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you like your detectives breezy, bold, and more than a bit mean to everyone with whom they cross paths, Alexa Crowe might be your gal. A retired police detective with dual Aussie/Kiwi citizenship, Alexa would rather spend her days perfecting her sourdough loaf than chasing down murderers the rest of the police force can’t be bothered to land, so one might excuse how much of a troll she is to everyone. Moving her operation from Australia to New Zealand between Series 1 and 2 seems to have mellowed her a bit, so for anyone who just wants their cozy detectives to be Lucy Lawless, maybe start there.
The Oyster-Shucking Mum
Lady Detective: Pearl Nolan, Whitstable Pearl
Played by: Kerry Godliman
Anchoring one of Acorn TV’s most tonally confounding originals, Pearl Nolan is the “plucky lady detective” for everyone who’s a bit burned out on cozy pluck, but not quite in the mood for the full-on grit of Acorn’s darker fare. Smart and unflappable, Pearl stands out on this list as the sole “mum,” her early single motherhood having kept her from the official police career she had originally envisioned. An avatar, then, for (a very particular type of) working moms, Pearl is the one to watch if you want proof that the dream of becoming a private investigator doesn’t have to die when you become a parent.
The Widowed Antiquarian
Lady Detective: Jean White, The Madame Blanc Mysteries
Played by: Sally Lindsay
It’s hard to imagine that anyone reading this list hasn’t dreamed of stumbling into the lead role of their own personal cozy mystery series, but in the unlikely case that really does describe you, Jean White is your investigator. An antique expert by trade and an unadventurous homebody by nature, Jean only finds herself thrust into the role of amateur detective after her husband is murdered on the way home from their French antique shop, obliging her to hop a plane and get out into the wider world. How sustainable her new role is in the long term, who can say? So if hers is the low-key mystery lifestyle you’re looking for, now’s the time to start watching.
The Fashion Maven Transplant
Lady Detective: Agatha Raisin, Agatha Raisin
Played by: Ashley Jensen
AKA Miss Marple, but make it sexy slapstick. Bright and bold and brazenly unconcerned with how big a mismatch her lifestyle is for the tiny Cotswolds village she decamps to as the series starts, Agatha Raisin is as accidental a detective as Jean White, but with the sharp bob and keen fashion sense of Phryne Fisher. A trained investigator she is not, but if you like your mysteries solved by a bullheaded unwillingness to let anything like training or decorum get in the way, Agatha is your woman.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.
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