Top 10 female TV sleuths. According to me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 Permalink

I was ranting speaking to someone recently about female detectives and how they’re so often still a ‘sidekick’ to their male counterpart (Bones, Castle, The Mentalist, CSI x 15 come to mind). However… I’ve since reminded myself of a few kick-ass females who’ve taken a lead role over the years and decided to share my top 10 female detectives of all time!


10. Sergeant Leann “Pepper” Anderson

Angie Dickinson’s most-remembered role as the star of Police Woman has to appear on the list though I’ve never actually seen the show myself. (Yes, it was before even MY time!) However… I remember the show from my childhood and know it led the way for many MANY female detectives who would come later.

9. Phryne Fisher

I’ve confessed a number of times to my love of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The very stylish and decadent Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) is tremendous fun, tongue-in-cheek hilarious and (quite frankly) I WANT HER LIFE.

rizzoli_isles_season_48. Rizzoli & Isles

Yes, Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) come as a pair which is allowed in my world. I’ve talked before about my love of the show and – in particular – their relationship and the way the two stars (and characters) complement each other perfectly.

7. Cagney & Lacey

I didn’t watch this show religiously but started towards the end of its life. Like Police Woman, Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) and Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) were trailblazers for smart kick-ass women grappling with life in a man’s world and the whole work / life balance thing.

Pic from:

Pic from:

6. Veronica Mars

I’m yet to see the Veronica Mars movie but I adored the original TV show. I suspect it reminded me of my love of Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books as a kid; but back in 2004 when Veronica Mars aired, young female detectives were a rare commodity. Particularly those who did cute things with their hair.

5. Jane Tennison

As I’ve always been a fan of a good detective show I LOVED Prime Suspect (the original English series) when it aired between 1991 – 2006. Helen Mirren was always fabulous in the role of the quite flawed but sassy and smart detective.

4. Charlie’s Angels



Again, these three (or should it be five?) come as a group. Along with the likes of The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman, they provided girls of the 1970s with strong female role models… who just happened to look great no matter what they were doing.

LawO_SVU_Bio_Mariska-Hargitay_500x5003. Olivia Benson

Law & Order SVU is the great survivor in the Law & Order franchise and I believe much of that is thanks to Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson (now Sergeant and boss of the SVU team).

Although an ensemble cast, Hargitay’s / Benson’s charisma and passion has kept the show alive over the years.

2. Jessica Fletcher

I’ve already admitted that I LOVE(D) Murder She Wrote. Indeed a few years ago when we suddenly got extra stations here in Oz and it started appearing daily I recorded it while at work, so I could watch it when nothing else was on. It was tragically old school with some scary acting and frightening sets (fake indoor plants anyone?!) but I still tuned in regularly.



1. Miss Marple

Surely Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is the mother (grandmother or great-grandmother) of all female detectives who came after. My absolutely favourite Miss Marple without a doubt is Geraldine McEwan who I believe played the role with the perfect balance of woolliness, acumen and good humour.

So there you have it. My favourite female TV sleuths. Narrowing it down to ten was harder than I expected. Other notable mentions: Sarah(s) Linden / Lund from The Killing (both US and Danish versions); FBI Agent Olivia Dunham from Fringe and Professor Sam Ryan from Silent Witness.

Of course, you’ll also realise I haven’t included ‘superheros’ or Buffy would indeed have featured as my number one pick!

So… how do you feel about my list and who have I forgotten?

Linking up with Trish from Little Drummer Boys for Wordless Wednesday.

  • Lisa@RandomActsOfZen
    April 16, 2014

    Well Deb, I hate to admit it, but I DO remember Pepper Anderson! Cagney & Lacey was a favourite, and I could watch Jessica Fletcher all day.
    I tried to get my 10 year-old book addict reading Trixie Belden, but she thought it was too boring. I was so excited when we found them in the library, but it wasn’t to be 🙁
    John and I both loved Veronica Mars, the dad was such a sweetie.
    Thanks for the trip down TV memory lane, hun x

  • Lee-Anne
    April 16, 2014

    A comprehensive list! One of my fav with an impressive female detective was ‘The Commander’, a British series with Amanda Burton as Clare Blake. She was tough and had to be in this ‘man’s world’ (left the guys for dead) 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      Oh yes, that was another character based on a Lynda la Plante (sp?) novel wasn’t it? (Like the Prime Suspect series?)

  • Char
    April 16, 2014

    I was quite fond of Laura Holt in Remington Steele. But that could have been because I quite fancied Pierce Brosnan.

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      Ah yes… there were a few ‘couples’ I identified. It might have to be a separate list (like Hart to Hart and The Avengers!).

  • Satu
    April 16, 2014

    I think Veronica Mars would probably top my list and perhaps also be the only one on my list . 🙂

    What about literary sleuths? Have you read books from Denise Mina, the Scottish writer?

    • Debbish
      April 16, 2014

      No I haven’t Satu…. Wow, literary sleuths – the mind boggles!

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    April 16, 2014

    Yes yes to Olivia and have you ever watched Fringe? Another Oliver, aka Agent Dunham. This is one series I would suggest if you don’t mind some Sci Fi and parallel universe stuff! x

    • Debbish
      April 17, 2014

      Oh yes Emily, you may have seen that Olivia got a notable mention…. I loved early seasons of Fringe but grew less interested as time wore on!

  • Tegan Churchill
    April 17, 2014

    I have a giant girl crush on Olivia. She’s realSVUpacking a punch in the new season. I really liked Alexandra Cabot when she was in SVU too. I’ve been watching Chicago PD which is also produced by Dick Wolf and I really like the female detective in that..whose name escapes me at the moment.

    • Debbish
      April 17, 2014

      I’m obviously an Olivia fan too… I hated Elliot and was glad when the character left. (I have to say though – I keep trying to work out if Mariska’s had some work done cos she looks poutier and constantly unhappy of late!)

  • Lou Lou
    May 3, 2014

    Oh I was the biggest Murder She Wrote fan growing up! The BIGGEST!

I'd love to hear your thoughts