15 Popular TV Detectives, Ordered By Murder-Solving Ability

Let’s say something terrible happens to someone you know. For the sake of argument, let’s say a cousin who you’re kind of close to gets straight up murdered by some unknown hood. You need answers, and you want them quickly. Who should you go to?

If this is real life, the answer is obviously the real cops. If this is fake TV life, however, you need to choose carefully to figure out which detective is best. Since I can’t get enough of whodunits on television, whether in procedural or serial format, I’ve decided to lend my expertise by picking out the ones I think would be most likely to solve your poor fake cousin’s murder.

Here are 15 current television crime solvers, ordered by their murder-solving ability, complete with best and worst case scenarios.


#15) Hank Voight (Chicago PD)

Worst case scenario: Detective Hank Voight is a full blown dirty cop who lines his own pockets and does whatever he needs to do simply to advance his own career. He will not solve your case because there are other things he feels like doing. He may also intimidate and belittle you because he’s sort of a dick, or if all goes to shit, beat you up because you looked at him wrong.

Best case scenario: Detective Hank Voight is only a borderline dirty cop who has adjusted his behavior to live on the fringes in order to better help the city of Chicago. He sees enough outrage/ money/ fame in your problem and decides to pour all of his time and his loose morals into figuring out what happened. He makes it his personal, obsessive mission to solve the case and issues his own brand of street justice, saving you and your family from having to go through a trial because NO ONE FUCKS WITH HIS CITY.


#14) Seeley Booth (Bones)

Worst case scenario: There isn’t a body, meaning Booth can’t lump in his far more intelligent, probably autistic other half Dr. Temperance Brennan. Instead, he gives it a go on his own, but without his longtime wingman, Dr. Sweets, he makes a series of impulsive, incorrect choices based on his gut that leads nowhere. Associate Dr. Jack Hodgins hardsells the conspiracy, and a few months later, there’s nothing going on except a lot of questions about the Federal Government.

Best case scenario: Booth works the investigative angle. Brennan and the forensics team work on the body. Angela does some nonsensical, completely impossible horseshit with her multi-million dollar computer and you’re invited to work on a mid-investigation experiment with Hodgins in his lab. The whole case is wrapped up within a day.

#13) John Reese (Person Of Interest)

Worst case scenario: The machine freaks out and starts spitting out numbers at an uncountable rate. Overwhelmed, Reese’s mumbling problem gets even worse and his trigger-happy nature kicks into overdrive. He pistol whips a cab driver, gets arrested and winds up in super secret government jail for years to come.

Best case scenario: Reese and buddy Harold Finch actually got your cousin’s information a day ahead of time. Reese was able to save his life by convincing him to fake his own death. After the intended killer is brought to justice, your cousin emerges from hiding, completely fine with a hell of a story to tell his poker buddies.

#12) Leroy Gibbs (NCIS)

Worst case scenario: Gibbs’ fourth marriage goes South right around the time you ask him for help. He tries to stay focus on the case, but he doesn’t offer much in the way of updates and gets frequently distracted by beautiful redheads now that he’s back on the market.

Best case scenario: Gibbs immediately jumps on the case and uses his relaxed, relatable value system to endear himself to your family. He works long, effective hours and all of the witnesses give him information in clear English he easily understands. He’s eventually able to track the suspect, bring him in and get him to confess following a skillful interrogation.

#11) Jake Peralta (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Worst case scenario: Peralta is given the case just moments after being challenged to a prank contest by co-worker/ love interest Amy Santiago. Unwilling to lose a bet that involves getting free tacos and a picture of Santiago from her 3rd grade yearbook, Peralta passes on the case to Boyle, who needing to grade some local pizza establishments, passes it on to Scully and Hitchcock who Scully and Hitchcock all over it.

Best case scenario: Fired up about topping Captain Holt’s old precinct record for total number of cases solved, Peralta jumps into your cousin’s murder with boss feet, putting in overtime and enlisting everyone else to help out thanks to a clever lie that will certainly get discovered by the end of the episode. With everyone working together, the perp is IDed quickly, and since you don’t work for the police, you don’t have to be involved in whatever goofy punishment he receives at the end of the episode.

#10) Emmett Carver (Gracepoint)

Worst case scenario: Following a particular stern case of complaining by Walter White’s wife, Carver goes into one of his spells and collapses. He’s rushed to the hospital where the out of town reporter brings up all of the previous issues he’s had with child abduction cases. The stress sends him into a rage and nets an automatic paid leave filled with counseling sessions with Tony Soprano’s Dr. Melfi.

Best case scenario: His dogged determination, good instincts and poor personality set him on the track of the killer like an angry bloodhound. Standard, yet thorough police work leads him to capture the killer in a pretty short amount of time. Perhaps more importantly, his irascible demeanor convinces him to give the perp one hell of a guilt trip/ blunt lecture during the car ride to the station.

#9) James Gordon (Gotham)

Worst case scenario: The investigation leads Gordon to a crossroads. In order to get the necessary information, he needs to torture a witness who is refusing to talk. He won’t do it, and his partner, Harvey Bullock, can’t because he’s sleeping off a wicked bender. Consequently, the case goes nowhere, and you’re forced to make a shady deal with Fish Mooney to get answers.

Best case scenario: Atop good morals and better common sense, James Gordon is able to figure out what happened to your cousin. Perhaps more importantly, he does it all in such a way that none of the evidence will get thrown out in court. No one bribes any of the jurors and a rare guilty verdict in Gotham is diligently earned.

#8) Richard Castle (Castle)

Worst case scenario: Castle gets distracted by a great idea for a new novel. By the time he snaps out of it, he’s in one of his goofy, whimsical moods and continually derails the investigation rather than offering helpful insights. By the time he actually gets around to focusing, the killer has fled. All of that, coupled with bitchy lovers quirrels between Castle and partner/ lover Kate Beckett keep the case from going anywhere.

Best case scenario: Castle descends on the crime scene, notices an out of place screwdriver, an unhitched window and one footprint and magically assembled all of that information into a weird narrative about an underemployed handyman who came in for a simple robbery and left a murderer. Simple policework leads to a carpentry shop and the killer promptly confesses for some reason.

#7) Dr. Henry Morgan (Forever)

Worst case scenario: The killer reminds Dr. Morgan of someone he knew back in the late 1800s. Haunted by continual flashback memories of what life was like during that period of time, he loses focus on the case, leaving his former Bones intern to carry the brunt of the investigation. At some point, his true identity is discovered by his partner Jo, which requires hours and hours of catch up conversations, leaving the killer time to escape justice. Or Forever gets cancelled before the murder.

Best case scenario: There’s some weird combination of food in the body that is only produced at one East African restaurant in New York City. Henry knows because he was best friends with the man who came up with the recipe back in 1913. An interview with the new owner reveals a regular customer who ate with your cousin on that day. At his apartment, evidence is placed in very obvious locations all around, and after a news story, the man turns himself in out of the kindness of his heart.

#6) Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU)

Worst case scenario: Your cousin’s murder does not have a sexual component. She refuses to investigate.

Best case scenario: Your cousin found himself the victim of some kind of weird sex thing prior to his death. She has a personal connection with this exact same weird sex things thanks to a former roommate in her younger days. She gets emotionally invested in the case and refuses to sleep until she hunts down the sex predator and makes him feel like a scumbag. Detective Stabler hears about what happened and decides to relive the glory years by putting the badge back on and hunting down this nefarious perp. After the two arrest him, he fires off a sucker punch that’s just hard enough not to leave a bruise. Benson keeps the secret to herself.

#5) Raylan Givens (Justified)

Worst case scenario: Your cousin’s murder has a connection to Harlan County. Raylan heads to his old stomping grounds to investigate and promptly shoots three people. They were (debatably) asking for it, but Art gets pissed off about what happened and suspends him for two weeks. He obviously can’t help himself and continues investigating, but without the protection of the law, all of his enemies go after him.

Best case scenario: Raylan interviews three people and eventually gets pointed toward a suspect. When he refuses to cooperate, Raylan breaks his nose. He eventually gives up the name of the real killer, who, in a fit of dumb rage, tries to drown on our hero. He’s promptly shot in the heart at close range and dies immediately. Raylan then utters some stoic quip about how he should have kept his hands away from his pockets.

#4) Aaron Hotchner (Criminal Minds)

Worst case scenario: The murderer isn’t a serial killer. He’s simply some dude who had a beef with your cousin. The Criminal Minds team tries to profile him, but because there aren’t multiple murders to establish an M.O., they can’t figure out what’s random and what is actually important. After weeks of waiting for another shoe to drop, they finally pick it in and give the case back to local authorities.

Best case scenario: Your cousin was murdered by a serial killer. Hotchner and his team are able to discover multiple crimes of a similar nature in the area, dating back to 1998. They use that information, along with the weirdo object that was left next to the victim, to look into his soul and realize the killer was an abused former student at a summer camp your cousin interned at. He’s quickly arrested, and following an investigation, it’s discovered your cousin was NOT abusing children like the other murder victims. He was just an innocent bystander.

#3) Sherlock Holmes (Elementary)

Worst case scenario: Sherlock plows back into the world of drugs. Watson gets pissed off and decides to end their arrangement. The one-two punch of addiction and losing his best friend/ possible future sister-in-law leads Sherlock Holmes to get philosophical about solving crime. He ultimately concludes he can’t stop pain and just gives up, leaving your cousin’s murder to be solved whenever his thinking patterns change.

Best case scenario: One of the books is out of alphabetical order on your cousin’s bookshelf. Inside, Sherlock Holmes discovers a cryptic clue, written as a riddle. The consultant stays up all night trying to solve the puzzle, eventually discovering it’s a cry for help/ middle finger pointed directly at a former business partner. His offices are raided, he’s arrested and millions of dollars is discovered, which is promptly put into a trust fund that passes to you.

#2) Patrick Jane (The Mentalist)

Worst case scenario: Moments after accepting your case, another call comes in. A woman was murdered and a red smiley face was drawn in the room. Jane is sure it’s a copycat. It has to be a copycat, but obviously, he needs to investigate to make sure. He vows to solve your case immediately after he solves the new Red John lead, whenever the hell that might be.

Best case scenario: Your cousin was staying in a hunting lodge alongside 9 other guests at the time of his murder. Patrick Jane immediately flies in, alongside his new FBI teammates, and interviews each of the other 9 people. Thanks to a traffic accident and the secluded nature of the property, it becomes clear only someone inside the lodge could have committed the murder. So, Jane sets up an elaborate ruse to trick the killer into coming forward, which happens with just enough time left for Jane to get in a few great quips about how stupid the killer is.

#1) Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock)

Worst case scenario: A bored and increasingly irritable Sherlock Holmes who recently quit smoking again decides he will only take cases of an almost absurdly weird variety. Your cousin’s rather conventional gunshot death doesn’t fit his parameters. He yells “NOPE” really loudly when you ask, while Watson apologizes and sheepishly escorts you out of the room.

Best case scenario: There’s something really weird about your cousin’s death. He had recently spent most of his time working on a strange experiment he refused to talk about. All of the evidence from his home lab seems to be gone, but Sherlock Holmes isn’t any ordinary man. Using his keen sense of smell and a makeshift magnifying glass, he discovers a distinct residue. That, coupled with the pungent odor, leads Holmes to a professional laboratory specializing in hair loss. There, he uncovers a plot to steal your cousin’s prized work and put it in the hands of a dastardly corporation, owned by a shell corporation that traces back to…. MORIARTY!

Mack Rawden
Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.