The Best Murders Are British

Essays on the International Appeal of English Crime Dramas

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About the Book

A staple of television since the early years of the BBC, British crime drama first crossed the Atlantic on public broadcasting stations and specialty cable channels, and later through streaming services. Often engaging with domestic anxieties about the government’s power (or lack thereof), and with larger issues of social justice like gender equality, racism, and homophobia, it has constantly evolved to reflect social and cultural changes while adapting U.S. and Nordic noir influences in a way that retains its characteristically British elements.

This collection examines the continuing appeal of British crime drama from The Sweeney through Sherlock, Marcella, and Happy Valley. Individual essays focus on male melodrama, nostalgia, definitions of community, gender and LGBTQ representation, and neoliberalism. The persistence of the English murder, as each chapter of this collection reveals, points to the complexity of British crime drama’s engagement with social, political, and cultural issues. It is precisely the mix of British stereotypes, coupled with a willingness to engage with broader global social and political issues, that makes British crime drama such a successful cultural export.

About the Author(s)

Jim Daems’ work focuses primarily on 16th and 17th century English representations of Ireland and on queer theory. He has published books and articles on Canadian multi-media artist and poet Bill Bissett, Harry Potter, Hank Williams, and Chuck Berry.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Jim Daems
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7939-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4069-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Persistence of the English Murder
JIM DAEMS 1
“Queen’s Pawn”: Changing Male Melodrama, Class Discord
and Gender Divides in The Sweeney
SUE MATHESON 9
“Trust the Gene Genie”: Nostalgia and Ideology in Life on Mars
GEORGE S. LARKE-WALSH 23
The “Bloody ’ell” of Broadchurch: Heterotopia in British
Television Crime Series
DEBNITA CHARRAVARTI 37
A Tale of Two Sidneys: The Aesthetics of Jazz and the Church
of England in Grantchester
PHILLIP E. MITCHELL 50
“Not so much Happy Valley as brutal, violent, drug- ridden,
death valley”: Exploring the Big Society in Sally Wainwright’s
Crime Drama
GILL JAMIESON 61
Stumbling Around: The Art of Detection in the British Crime
Series Endeavour
MICHELLE D. MIRANDA 81
Women in British Crime Procedurals
KATRINA L. HINSON and RUTH M.E. OLDMAN 97
Speaking in Code: Feminist Narratives in The Bletchley Circle
MEGHAN PURVIS 111
No Lipstick Required: Vera and the Potential for an Examination
of Post-Feminist Representation in British TV Crime Drama
JAMES SHELTON 126
From “freak” to “Good Man”: Homosocial Triangulation
in BBC’s Sherlock
RACHEL VAN HOFWEGEN WILLIS 140
“Crossing the Moor in Those Dark Hours”: Modernizing
the Gothic in the BBC Sherlock Adaptation of The Hound
of the Baskervilles

L.N. ROSALES 155
From Out of the Flames: Queer Revenge Plots in Lewis
and Waking the Dead
JIM DAEMS 170
Neo-Liberal Violence: Marcella and Britain’s Monstrous
Work Culture
ROBERT A, SAUNDERS 182
About the Contributors 199
Index 201