Blue Lights, Steeltown Murders, Happy Valley, Payback (BBC/BritBox)

Check Out Some of the Best British Crime Dramas of 2023

Another year has come and gone, and we’ve been gifted plenty of juicy crime dramas in the past 12 months. Whether you’re in the mood for something lighthearted and cozy or a bit darker and thrilling, the Brits have a crime drama series for everyone.

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So, if you’re looking for something to binge-watch in the year’s last few days, or you want to catch up on 2023’s greatest hits in the new year, take a look at our list of the best British crime dramas of 2023, and see if anything tickles your fancy. We promise they’re all worth it.

The best new British crime dramas of 2023

The BBC, ITV, and even Netflix excel at producing nail-biting crime and mystery shows. If you’re looking for something entirely new to sink your teeth into, look no further.


Stephen Graham and Shira Haas in Bodies

We’ll admit that Netflix’s Bodies miniseries is one of the more fantastical and outlandish series on this list, but like any great mystery show, it starts with a murder. The same murder victim, in fact, was found in four different time periods. There’s a sinister conspiracy afoot here, and four wholly different detectives must rely on the case notes from years gone by to change the fate of the world. It’s a complex, intricate tale, with outstanding character work, and somehow it fits into just eight episodes. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Si Spencer, this one is definitely worth a watch.

Beyond Paradise

Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman and Zahra Ahmadi as DS Esther Williams in Beyond Paradise

A spinoff of the BBC’s stunningly successful Death in Paradise, Beyond Paradise sees DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) move to the sleepy seaside town of Shipton Abbott and join the local police force. The cases are clever, the relationships are compelling, and the scenery is gorgeous. What’s not to love? If you enjoy Death in Paradise, you’ll certainly love this, too, and it might just be the cozy series you need to get through the dark winter days. Season 2 will also be airing on the BBC soon, so there’s no better time to start!


Morven Christie as Lexie in Payback

Produced by Line of Duty‘s Jed Mercurio, Payback follows Lexie (Morven Christie), who becomes embroiled in a high-stakes police investigation after her accountant husband, Jared, was murdered. Turns out, Jared had been working for the notorious crime lord Cal Morris (Peter Mullan), unbeknownst to Lexie. The investigation puts the lives of Lexie and her family at risk, but the truth must be uncovered. This six-part ITV drama is a gripping tale that is sure to keep you on your toes.

Steeltown Murders

Philip Glenister, Steffan Rhodri, and Gareth John Bale in Steeltown Murders (2023)

Steeltown Murders chronicles the search for a real-life serial killer in Port Talbot, Wales, jumping between the original investigation in 1973 and the cold-case investigation in the early 2000s. In the secondary timeline, the detectives use new technology and DNA evidence, hoping to finally unmask the killer. This isn’t an easy watch, but it is certainly a worthwhile one.

Blue Lights

Sian Brooke and Martin McCann in Blue Lights

The BBC has yet another hit on its hands with Blue Lights, which follows three new police recruits in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s a dangerous city to patrol, and though the recruits have to deal with notorious gangs and even MI5’s shady influence, they’re given a little bit of help by charming senior officers like Sergeant McNally. If you want compelling characters and heart-stopping tales, this is the show for you.

The best returning British crime dramas of 2023

We haven’t forgotten some of our favorite returning shows, either, some of which returned for outstanding final seasons earlier this year. This part of the list could have gone on forever, however, so we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites, but we certainly haven’t forgotten about shows like Death in Paradise, Vera, or Silent Witness—you can check out some of our other recommendations here.

Happy Valley season 3

Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley season 3

Happy Valley was one of the BBC’s sleeper hits, but once word got out, it couldn’t be topped. Star Sarah Lancashire, who plays Catherine Cawood, has given her all to this story and has made her character a legendary TV icon. Happy Valley season 3 is sadly the final season, but certainly not the least, as Catherine’s dangerous feud with her grandson’s father, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), comes to a head.

Endeavour season 9

Roger Allam as Thursday and Shawn Evans as Morse in 'Endeavour'

Endeavour certainly went out with a bang. One of ITV’s greatest detective series returned for a ninth and final season as DS Morse (Shaun Evans) and DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) finally began to unravel the horrifying truth of what happened at Blenheim Vale and the conspiracy to cover it up. Evans and Allam both delivered moving, poignant performances—as always—and though we were sad to see this show end, we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting conclusion.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke season 3

Kate Phillips as Eliza Scarlet in Miss Scarlet and the Duke
(Alibi/PBS Masterpiece)

Crime dramas don’t always have to be dark and dreary, do they? They can be fun and exciting, too, and that’s exactly what Miss Scarlet and the Duke does best. Season 3 was a return to form, as the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Eliza and William finally begins to take a turn, while Eliza gets embroiled in mysterious case after case, finally culminating in a proper job offer from her fiercest competitor. Miss Scarlet and the Duke is returning for season 4 in the new year, so there’s no better time to catch up than now.

Shetland season 8

Alison O'Donnell and Ashley Jensen in Shetland season 8

When it was announced that Douglas Henshall was leaving Shetland after season 7, everyone wondered whether it would be able to come back just as strong as before. Enter Ashley Jensen as DCI Ruth Calder, who brings fresh new energy to Shetland and provides plenty of compelling new relationship dynamics, especially between Calder and Alison O’Donnell’s mainstay, Tosh. The scenery was as stunning as ever, the story tense and intricate as always, and we can’t wait to see more. Let’s hope the BBC gives Shetland the go-ahead for season 9.

Unforgotten season 5

Sinéad Keenan and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten

Last but not least, Unforgotten returned for a superb fifth season despite a major casting change. Nicola Walker left at the end of season 4, but luckily, Sinéad Keenan was more than up to the challenge. This season’s cold case was as compelling as ever, despite Keenan’s DCI James being reluctant to work on more cold cases. Unforgotten hasn’t forgotten about any of its other leading characters, either, as it delves into their home lives and Sunny’s (Sanjeev Bhaskar) grief in particular.

(featured image: BBC/BritBox/ITV)

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.