14 Best Detective Shows on HBO Max (Feb 2024)

Image Credit: Henrik Ohsten/HBO

A good detective show has the ability to take us back to our childhood when we often spent lazy weekend afternoons in the company of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, the Hardy Boys, or Miss Marple. The audience generally experiences detective shows from the point of view of the detective themselves or one of their close associates. If it’s the former, the audience learns new aspects of a given investigation alongside the detectives themselves. If it’s the latter, it adds another layer of mystery to the narrative. Being one of the premier streaming services that deliver some of the best shows to its audience, HBO Max has a bunch of great detective shows that you’ll enjoy.

14. We Own This City (2022)

Developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, this mini-series is based on Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton’s nonfiction book of the same name. The series delves deep into the rise and decline of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, along with the corruption within. ‘We Own this City’ centers on Sergeant Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal), one of the force’s eight members who were all accused in a federal racketeering indictment in 2017. It came to light after the Drug Enforcement Administration started investigating a drug organization, an investigation that would later involve the FBI as well. All the officers of the Gun Trace Task Force were convicted and received sentences. ‘We Own This City’ is a spiritual successor to ‘The Wire’ created by David Simon. Alongside Bernthal, the ‘We Own This City’ cast includes Jamie Hector, Dagmara Dominczyk, Wunmi Mosaku, and David Corenswet. You can stream the series here.

13. Cold Case (2003–2010)

Created by Meredith Stiehm, the CBS series explores cold cases, cases that are no longer being actively investigated, at the Philadelphia Police Department. It follows homicide detective Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris) and her team of detectives. More often, each episode deals with one case that can go back to the early 20th century, accompanied by flashbacks to the time and the prevalent issues then, including sexism, racism, and police brutality. What makes the show interesting is that the characters swap between the past and present timelines as the investigation proceeds. Alongside Morris, the cast includes Justin Chambers, Danny Pino, John Finn, Jeremy Ratchford and Thom Barry. You can watch the series here.

12. Miss Sherlock (2019)

‘Miss Sherlock’ offers a Japanese take on the immortal character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sara “Sherlock” Shelly Futaba is a consulting detective residing in present-day Tokyo. Gifted with remarkable deductive skills, Sherlock often helps out the Metropolitan Police with their investigations. Almost every rendition of Sherlock has a Watson, and this is no exception. Dr. Wato Tachibana has recently come back to Japan after serving as a volunteer medical aid in Syria. She is Sherlock’s flatmate. As Sherlock solves various cases, she becomes aware of a secret organization, Stella Maris, the root cause of most of the crimes Sherlock investigates. You can watch the series here.

11. Epitafios (2004–2009)

‘Epitafios’ is an Argentine crime thriller series. Although it was reportedly filmed in Buenos Aires, the show doesn’t explicitly mention where it is set. The plot revolves around Renzo Márquez, a former police detective who teams up with psychiatrist and ex-girlfriend Laura Santini to solve a series of murders. They discover that the murders are works of a killer who seeks to replicate previous killings as art pieces. The audience is also introduced to Bruno Costas, who is apparently on the path of vengeance for the deaths of four high schoolers killed five years earlier. You may watch the show here.

10. Nancy Drew (2019-)

Nancy Drew is one of those characters mentioned above, the ones whose exploits you grow up reading. She has been portrayed by Pamela Sue Martin and Tracy Ryan on the small screen and Maggie Lawson in a film. In The CW series we are discussing here, the titular detective is played by Kennedy McMann. As Nancy prepares to leave for college, she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, this time as a suspect. Having no other choice, she postpones her departure for a year. Like ‘Riverdale,’ another CW series based on classic characters, this rendition of ‘Nancy Drew’ is pulpy and consciously over-the-top. Feel free to check out the series here.

9. The Mentalist (2008–2015)

Quite a few police procedurals have found their way from other networks to HBO Max. What differentiates ‘The Mentalist‘ from the rest is ultimately the main character. Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) used to be a fraudulent psychic medium with a large following. After his wife and daughter are murdered by a serial killer known as Red John, Patrick devotes his life to revenge. He realizes that the most efficient way to find the killer is to utilize law enforcement resources, so he begins helping the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with their cases. You can check out the show here.

8. The Investigation (2020)

Image Credit: Per Arnesen/HBO

The Danish-Swedish series ‘The Investigation’ is the dramatization of the death of the Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who was killed in 2017 at age 30. The story unfolds in six grounded and matter-of-fact episodes, primarily focusing on the investigation by the Copenhagen police officials. ‘The show’s approach to the mystery is significantly different than most other thriller series. The killer, whose name is never mentioned, is arrested in the first episode itself. The rest of the show focuses on how the investigators build their case so the perpetrator can be put away for good. You can watch ‘The Investigation’ here.

7. The Alienist (2018-2020)

Based on the 1994 namesake novel by Caleb Carr, ‘The Alienist’ takes place in 1890s New York. The title of the show refers to Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), a criminal psychiatrist. He and his friend, newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), are contacted by police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt to help the NYPD solve the deaths of several young male prostitutes. Laszlo and John are helped by Roosevelt’s secretary, Sara Howard. ‘The Alienist’ is a blend of history and fiction. For instance, Roosevelt was indeed the police commissioner of New York City between 1895 and 1897. You may stream the series here.

6. C.B. Strike (2017-)

C.B. Strike,’ or simply’ Strike,’ is a detective series based on the ‘Cormoran Strike’ series of novels. J. K. Rowling, the author of the ‘Harry Potter‘ series, wrote the ‘Cormoran Strike’ books under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The show revolves around the titular character, Cormoran Blue Strike, a disillusioned war veteran who decides to become a private detective and sets up an office on London’s Denmark Street. He used to be a Special Investigation Branch investigator. Strike utilizes the experiences he accumulated in that role to help the police solve gruesome murders. He is helped by his assistant, Robin Ellacott, who later becomes his business partner. You may watch ‘C.B. Strike’ here.

5. The Outsider (2020)

Image Credit: Bob Mahoney/HBO

‘The Outsider’ is the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s 2018 novel of the same name. Set in a sleepy town in Georgia, the show begins with the discovery of the corpse of a young boy, Frank Peterson. Detective Ralph Anderson investigates the case and deduces that the Little League coach, Terry Maitland, is a person of interest. As Ralph’s son was once part of Terry’s team, Ralph feels responsible for bringing him to justice. Ralph publicly arrests Terry and builds a strong case against him. However, Terry’s lawyer, Howard Salomon, gets involved and collects evidence that directly contradicts Ralph’s findings. Meanwhile, the Peterson family rapidly falls apart following Frank’s death, and Glory, Terry’s wife, discovers that their family has become the town pariah. You can stream the series here.

4. Sharp Objects (2018)

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In ‘Sharp Objects,’ investigative journalist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) struggles to deal with her past. She is an alcoholic and has spent most of her life self-harming. As the series begins, she gets out of a psychiatric hospital. Following the murders of two young girls in her hometown, Wind Gap, Missouri, Camille’s editor sends her back to investigate. As Camille returns to Wind Gap, she remembers her life there with her controlling mother, Adora, and half-sister, Amma. You may watch ‘Sharp Objects’ here.

3. True Detective (2014-)

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Very few thriller series had as big of an impact on 20th-century pop culture as ‘True Detective.’ It’s an anthology crime drama, each season focusing on different cases and revolving around different characters. The first season is split into two timelines. In 1995, Detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson) investigate the murder of Dora Lange, a 20-something prostitute whose body is found as if it was purposefully placed against a tree. She has deer antlers on her head and twig latticework that looks similar to Cajun bird traps around her body. In 2012, Rust and Marty are forced to revisit the case from 1995 after someone is killed in the exact same manner as Lange. You can watch the series here.

2. Mare of Easttown (2021)

Created by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, ‘Mare of Easttown’ centers on police detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) of Easttown, Pennsylvania. She is a local hero, thanks to a dunk she made 25 years ago as a school kid. But now, she has to balance her troubled personal life that includes a failed investigation into a year-old missing person case, a divorce, a son who committed suicide, and the legal battle with her son’s drug addict girlfriend over her grandson’s custody.

On top of all this, there are the expectations of the people of her town and a new investigation into the recent murder of a child. Winslet, as always, provides a charming portrayal of a courageous/troubled character with utmost finesse, balancing all aspects with ease. She won the Best Actress Primetime Emmy Award along with Evan Peters, who won for the Outstanding Supporting Actor role as Detective Colin Zabel, Mare’s assistant on the murder case. The rest of the cast includes Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, Guy Pearce, Cailee Spaeny, and Sosie Bacon. You may watch the show here.

1. The Wire (2002 – 2008)

Aging like fine wine, ‘The Wire’ is one of the best detective shows ever created despite receiving average reviews when it dropped in June 2002 and ran for five seasons till March 2008. The show features a wide range of actors across its 5-season run, including Michael K Williams, Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Idris Elba, Wood Harris, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. It is created by author/former ‘The Baltimore Sun’ crime journalist David Simon and explores issues of illegal drug trade, the ports, government, education system and print media, with Baltimore, Maryland, as the backdrop. How the show tackles all the issues and explores the different facets of the city of Baltimore is authentic. Feel free to check out the series here.

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