When The Killing finally comes back to UK screens for a new series in November, I’ll be cheering for the welcome return of the no-nonsense, arse-kicking female detective Sarah Lund.
The sass, the sweater and the hypnotic Scandinavian language quickly established The Killing as one of my favourite TV shows of all time. Sofie Gråbøl’s powerful depiction of the troubled detective Sarah Lund means that you don’t need to know the language to understand that she means serious business. As only the latest in a long line of strong, female detective characters, I decided to investigate which other crime-solving heroines belong in the female detective hall of fame.
1. George - The Famous Five
George in The Famous Five cuts a refreshing figure in children's literature, compared with the traditional, domesticated image of girlhood that runs rampant in so many other books. I always identified with the scruffy tomboy, whose fearless curiosity and stubborn demeanour meant she was more than a match for any male characters who had the misfortune to cross her path.
If the character of George was written today, she'd probably be labelled transgender but I've always thought of her as a girl who doesn't want to be defined by an accident of birth and also as someone who enjoys being a little bit controversial.
2. Jessica Fletcher – Murder She Wrote
Murder She Wrote was an afternoon TV staple when I was growing-up and its staring character, the crime writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, solves every mystery that comes her way with a moral superiority as unshakable as her bouffant hairstyle. In her sleepy, North American seaside town, Jessica encounters more dead bodies per square mile than there are Byron Burger restaurants in central London.
Angela Lansbury is undoubtedly a class act, but what made her portrayal of Jessica Fletcher so intriguing and inspiring to my 10-year-old mind, was that her character had embarked on her second career as a writer and crime solver after the untimely death of her beloved husband. The star of Murder She Wrote shows that a middle-aged widow can have a whole new lease of life, if she's strong enough to stomach a little blood and half a can of hairspray.
3. Kima Greggs - The Wire
Kima Greggs is basically as tough as they come. As a young, black lesbian at an inner-city police department, Kima ticks pretty much every minority box possible, but the person she's most similar to is her white, heterosexual male colleague Jimmy McNulty. The great thing about Kima in The Wire is that her character battles with the same vices and commitment issues as most of the men.
Despite these similarities, Kima is still a woman in a man's world and she doesn't always get an easy ride from her Baltimore police department co-workers, but her intelligence, skill and professionalism means that she is one of the most well-liked and respected characters in the series.
4. Thursday Next – The Thursday Next series
The quick-thinking, Dodo-owning protagonist of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is a literary detective who develops the ability to enter works of fiction. Thursday is also a fearless war veteran, but her haunted past and misplaced sense of loyalty is getting in the way of marrying the man she loves. The novels take place in a parallel world to our own, where books are the highest form of entertainment, the Crimean War is still in full swing and Wales has ceded from the UK to form its own socialist republic. Thursday is an inspired literary creation who battles with her heart and a host of fictional characters to keep order in the world of literature and conquer her own demons.
5. Lisbeth Salander – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Troubled, abused and suspiciously fond of pizza for someone so skinny; Lisbeth Salander isn't a run of the mill crime-solver. As the leading female character in an overtly feminist novel, (the Swedish title translates literally as Men Who Hate Women) Lisbeth is the embodiment of female empowerment.
Guided by a moral core that seemingly no amount of beating or emotional abuse can compromise, Lisbeth is not above breaking the law to see her own brand of justice realised. She's Robin Hood crossed with Trinity from The Matrix films. As a wielder of Old Testament style retribution, she'd sooner douse you in petrol and set you alight than hand you over to the proper authorities. Weirdly, I’d still go for a drink with her, but I’d probably be careful not to get on her bad side.
Image of Kima Greggs via HBO