Amateur Sleuths: ‘Grantchester’ Vicar Sidney Chambers and Beyond

If you’re like me, you are really excited that Grantchester is coming back to PBS. Series 2 debuts on Masterpiece Mystery Sunday, March 27 at 9:00 pm ET. (Check your local listings just to be safe.)

Image Credit Lovely Day

Based on the short stories of James Runice, WWII soldier turned vicar turned part-time detective, Sidney Chambers (James Norton) was very well received the first time around. The good looking yet troubled young pastor will again be joined by Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) for those entertaining more-than-meets-the-eye cases. The veteran police officer with valuable experience and his spiritual protégé, a non-judgmental, intuitive sort of thinker, balance each other well as they work to bring the justice to their victims.

Rev. Chambers, however, isn’t the first character to stumble from an unrelated career into the world of telly crime solving. Mystery fans seem to love the outsider who can bring their own special skill set to that subtle art that is detective work. Often in cooperation with law enforcement or some other investigative entity, these novices can often see things the police miss.

Ex-cops/private investigators and those who aid the police forensically aside, I’ve compiled a list of amateur detectives who have brought their expertise to the detective game over the years. From gardeners and cleaners to illusionists and clergymen, let’s see how many you’re familiar with.

Father Brown

Image Credit BBC Productions and BBC Worldwide

Played by: Mark Williams (in the 2013 adaptation loosely based on G.K. Chesterton character)

Day job: Roman Catholic priest

Location: St. Mary’s Church in 1950’s fictional Cotswold village of Kembleford

Crime Solving Colleagues: Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer) and Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers)

Transferable Skills: advanced observational and listening skills, honed by time spent in the confessional; curiosity; and the saintly traits of compassion, patience and tolerance

Jonathan Creek

Image Credit BBC

Played by: Alan Davies

Day job: Designer of illusions for a stage magician which he builds at home in his converted windmill

Location: Modern day Sussex

Crime Solving Colleagues: Journalist Maddy Magellan (Caroline Quentin); TV presenter Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha); Paranormal investigator Joey Ross (Sheridan Smith) and Jonathan’s wife Polly Creek (Sarah Alexander)

Transferable Skills: cynicism, lateral thinking, ingenuity, logic

Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme

Image Credit Carnival Film & Television

Played by: Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris

Day job: Gardeners/landscape architects

Location: Based in the London area, the ladies take on jobs in gardens around England and other parts of Europe.

Crime Solving Colleagues: No one in particular

Transferable Skills: Inquisitive nature, ability to blend in as on-site laborers, knowledge of poisonous plants.


Image Credit BBC-TV Productions andMcShane Productions

Played by: Ian McShane

Day job: Antiques expert and dealer

Location: Modern day East Anglia

Crime Solving Colleagues: Assistant Eric Catchpole (Chris Jury), Lovejoy’s barker Tinker Dill (Dudley Sutton) and Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan)

Transferable skills: brash confidence, roguish charm, a keen eye and attention to detail

Mr. & Mrs. Murder (Nicola and Charlie Buchanan)

Image Credit FreemantleMedia

Played by: Kat Stewart and Shaun Micallef

Day job: Industrial cleaners specializing in crime scenes

Location: Modern day Australia

Crime Solving Colleagues: Detective Peter Vinetti (Jonny Pasvolsky)

Transferable skills: Charlie’s knack for facts and figures; Nicola’s powers of perception and developed sense of fairness and empathy; plus both have daily exposure to forensic evidence.

So no matter what your actual profession, you too might be a detective at heart. I know working in a library for the past decade, I often feel myself driven to get to the bottom of a patron’s ostensibly impossible query. Perhaps that’s just my inner sleuth trying to break free.. Share your favorite amateur detective with us in the comments or tell us why your job makes you well suited to mystery solving!