These 10 features create the ideal detective drama – such as plot twists and a surprise ending

Britain is a nation of ‘armchair detectives’, with nearly a third confident in their ability to solve real illegal misconducts thanks to the skills they have picked up watching crime TV.

And of these ‘Holmes-from-home’ detectives, 71 per cent reckon they have the analytical skills and resources to solve a murder case - in real life.

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A study of 2,000 adults has revealed the intrigue of the private eye profession, and the impact crime dramas have on the public.

Exactly half of those who watch crime dramas rate themselves as ‘armchair detectives’, picking apart clues and motives in TV shows.

And 91 per cent can’t resist regularly chiming in throughout a police procedural to try and identify the killer.

The research was commissioned by new streaming service Viaplay, which has recently launched in the UK and includes Nordic Noir box sets, documentaries, and films.

Filippa Wallestam, EVP and chief content officer at Viaplay Group said: “The heroic detectives of crime fiction often make it look easy, gathering evidence, putting the pieces together and catching the villain red-handed.

“There’s a real thrill to watching the plan come together as the killer’s web begins to unravel, and we understand the thrill at home of trying to match wits with on-screen super sleuths.

"When it comes to Nordic Noir, this is especially evident due to its unpolished dark brutality and very authentic style of storytelling.”

When considering how a killer gives themselves away, 25 per cent believe accidentally leaving DNA at the scene is most likely to be their undoing.

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Leaving an incriminating item to be discovered by the detective, getting caught in the act on CCTV and being found with a souvenir from the victim’s body were all identified as factors which catch slap-dash crooks out.

Despite confidence in their abilities as sofa-bound private eyes, the average Brit reckons they only guess the murderer right 36 per cent of the time.

And 34 per cent will only make a stab at the culprit once they know every character has been introduced.

For those who watch crime dramas, a plot full of twists and turns is the main factor which draws them to the genre, followed by a surprise reveal at the very end.

Suspenseful crime - The popular sub-genre

Other popular features of detective dramas include a clever, unflappable detective, a strong relationship between the protagonist and their partner and a strong grounding in real police work.

If pressed to describe their own detective style, 37 per cent consider themselves to be detail-oriented and analytical, poring over the evidence, inspecting the crime scene and following clues.

The second most popular detecting type however was that of the loose cannon, hitting the streets, finding witnesses and hunting the killer down the hard way.

Suspenseful crime shows were crowned the most popular sub-genre of detective drama by respondents, followed by psychological thrillers and classic ‘whodunnit’ detective fiction.

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Police procedurals, spy and espionage and hard-boiled dramas also proved popular with crime-loving Brits.

The contents of these shows get under the skin of 32 per cent of viewers, who have incorporated extra safety measures into their own lives based on what they’ve learned watching detective dramas.

Of these, 43 per cent now double-check that they have locked all the doors when in their home, and 36 per cent are sure to keep friends and family updated when they are out and about.

In the study, conducted by, it was revealed a morbid 24 per cent feel at their most relaxed watching something bleak, while 20 per cent can’t help but be intrigued by dark subject matter.

Filippa Wallestam at Viaplay, which is currently offering a free seven-day trial and has recently released popular Danish Nordic Noir crime drama Face to Face, starring Lars Mikkelsen, added: “The detective genre is a versatile and varied one, full of misdirection and mystery by design.

“This winter, it’s understandable if people want to settle into their favourite detecting armchair and indulge in some bleak and intriguing crime content.”

Top 10 features of the ideal detective drama

  1. A plot full of twists and turns throughout
  2. A surprise twist at the end
  3. A clever team of investigators working together
  4. A clever, unflappable detective
  5. A good back and forth between the detective and their partner
  6. Strong grounding in reality and real police work
  7. A focus on the crime scene and forensics
  8. A cliffhanger (e.g will the detective get their perp?)
  9. An unusual murder method
  10. An unstable detective who doesn’t do things by the book

Top 10 factors in a murder which get the killer caught

  1. Leaving DNA at the scene
  2. Leaving an incriminating item at the crime scene by mistake
  3. Being spotted on CCTV
  4. They take a souvenir from their victim which they are later found with
  5. Leaving a fingerprint at the scene
  6. They kill someone they know and are the prime suspect
  7. A witness coming forward to tell the detective what happened
  8. They try to kill the detective or someone the detective knows
  9. An outright confession
  10. They try to bribe the detective or turn them to their way of thinking unsuccessfully
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