As the days get shorter and the weather gets chillier, a lot of us are looking for good shows to watch under a soft blanket with a cup of hot cocoa. There are few things better for that than British cozy mysteries. Cozy mysteries are usually defined by having sex and violence happen off-camera, featuring an amateur sleuth, and being set in a small community where everyone knows each other. Most of the shows on this list fit that definition pretty well, and although a few professional sleuths have made their way in, the coziness factor definitely remains.
Rosemary and Thyme
Perhaps the quintessential modern cozy mystery series, Rosemary and Thyme follows two gardeners who are also amateur sleuths. Former university lecturer in applied horticulture Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Felicity Kendal), a former police officer and avid gardener start up a gardening business together as part of the second chapter in their lives after they both suffer personal and professional heartache. As they work to solve plant and garden-related problems around Britain and Europe, they often find themselves in the middle of murder investigations, and these gardeners are often the only ones who can dig up the truth.
Pie in the Sky
In the fictional English county of Westershire, semi-retired policeman Henry Crabbe (Richard Griffiths) splits his time between solving mysteries and working as the head chef at Pie in the Sky, the restaurant his wife Margaret (Maggie Steed) owns. All Henry really wants to do is cook good English food, especially pies, but his old boss, Assistant Chief Constable Freddie Fisher (Malcolm Sinclair) keeps roping him into new cases. Each episode usually involves a new mystery, but also some kind of issue at the restaurant. If you’re a fan of good mysteries and good food, this is the show for you.
When Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) left her public relations job in London to move to the small village of Carsely, she thought she was beginning a quiet new chapter in her life. Suddenly she finds herself thrust into a murder investigation when the annual quiche-making competition ends with someone dead. Thus begins Agatha’s career as an amateur private detective in this charming series based on the books by M. C. Beaton. The series is still running on Acorn TV with its fourth season currently in production.
In a small village in the Cotswolds, Father Brown (Mark Williams) serves as the priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. When members of his parish get involved in murder cases, Father Brown often steps in to help using his keen intelligence and general empathy. His love and care for his parishioners give Father Brown a unique ability to talk with people and find the truth. While he usually doesn’t get much help from the local police force, Father Brown is assisted by a loveable cast of characters like his secretary Bridgette McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) and local bored socialite Felicia, Lady Montague (Nancy Carroll).
Related: What Is a Clerical Mystery?
Running since 1997, Midsomer Murders is one of the most beloved British TV mystery series of all time. Based on Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby books, the series follows Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) for its first 13 seasons as he solves cases in the fictional county of Midsomer. In season 14, Tom was succeeded by his cousin John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). In addition to its picturesque rural setting, Midsomer Murders is also well known for its witty and occasionally dark sense of humor.
Set in the 1950s in the Cambridgeshire village of the same name, Grantchester follows Anglican vicar and former member of the Scots Guards Sidney Chambers (James Norton) as he solves crimes with Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). In series four, Sidney’s role as Grantchester’s vicar and amateur sleuth is filled by Will Davenport (Tom Brittney). Although an unlikely partnership, the combination of Detective Keating’s methodical and gruff approach with Sidney and later Will’s more gentle style of getting information out of people makes them a great crime-solving team. This series is one of the darker entries on this list, but the 1950s setting and charming feel of the village of Grantchester definitely up the coziness factor.
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Henrietta “Hetty” Wainthropp (Patricia Routledge) is a retired housewife from Lancashire who, at the age of 60, decides to become a private investigator. Based on characters from David Cook’s novel Missing Persons, the crimes in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates are usually too minor for the local police to figure out, and that’s where Hetty comes in. Armed only with her common sense and her pocketbook, she is often assisted by local teenager Geoffrey Shawcross (Dominic Monaghan). Her husband Robert (Derek Benfield) also helps on occasion but more often than not takes care of things at home while Hetty is on the case.
Queens of Mystery
Young detective Matilda Stone (Olivia Vinall) is eager to prove herself when she is assigned to a post in her fictional hometown of Wildemarsh. As she gets to work solving murders in the area, she is aided by her three aunts Cat (Julie Graham), Beth (Sarah Woodward), and Jane (Siobhan Redmond) - who just so happen to be well-known crime novelists. In addition to the many mysteries they deal with, always hanging over their heads is the mysterious disappearance of Matilda’s mother so many years ago. This Acorn TV hit was renewed for a second season in March 2021.
Based on a series of mystery novels by M. C. Beaton, Hamish Macbeth follows the titular constable as he solves crimes in the fictional Scottish town of Lochdubh. Hamish (Robert Carlyle) enjoys keeping the peace in Lochdubh in his own way and actively works to keep himself from being promoted. Lochdubh is filled with many interesting and quirky characters, including John James McIver (Ralph Riach), nicknamed “TV John” because he was the first man in town to get a television set, who also claims to be a psychic. But Hamish’s most important ally is certainly his West Highland Terrier Wee Jock.
Agatha Christie’s Marple
Just one of many Agatha Christie adaptations out there, Marple is certainly one of the coziest. Miss Jane Marple (Geraldine McEwan, later Julia McKenzie) is an elderly woman who lives in the fictional village of St. Mary Mead. Miss Marple often stumbles upon the mysteries she solves, usually being underestimated by the local police force until she impresses them with her keen observational skills.
Featured still from Queens of Mystery via Acorn TV.