Death in Paradise detectives ranked: who is the best?

Ben Miller suited and booted in sunny Death in Paradise.
(Image credit: BBC)

Who's the best Death in Paradise detective? As the show returns for an amazing 12th series, we thought we'd compare all the leading detectives.

Ralf Little is the current leading man as DI Neville Parker, but what about all the other chief cops on the series, like Ben Miller's DI Richard Poole and Kris Marshall's DI Humphrey Goodman?

We've been reminiscing about detective inspectors past and wondering who was best... dedicated fans will actually remember there was a detective before Richard! Yes, DI Charlie Hulme (Hugo Speer) was in the first series, but let's say he didn't last long so we've not included him!

Who is the No 1 Detective in Death in Paradise?

4. DI Jack Mooney

Jack Mooney

Ardal O'Hanlon as DI Jack Mooney (Image credit: BBC)

DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O'Hanlon)

DI Mooney is a complex character, even if he bares a strong resemblance to the dimwit Father Dougal from Father Ted. But Jack heads to Saint Marie for a new start after the death of his wife and carries a depth of sadness with him initially. But his essential nature is friendly and relaxed and he is soon in the rhythm of island life.

What the viewers thought 

"The best DI so far & no silly gimmick needed, much more watchable. Hated Ben Millers daft briefcase & seeing Kris Marshall keep his jacket on, he looked like he was about to pass out. Much more realistic when dressed for the temperature."

What to Watch thought

Jack doesn't have the gravitas of Poole or the immediate humor of Goodman, but he was a kind of halfway house — his whimsical charm could easily give way to an icy stare. Jack's casual nature and disarming technique were very successful and drove the show from Death in Paradise season 6 to midway through season 9. He was part of Saint Marie's furniture by the time he left. We've loved every Death in Paradise leading man, but DI Mooney didn't quite have the spark of the others.

Best case

Murder Begins at Home (Season 8, Episode 8) — A horse-trekking expedition is cut short when Jack discovers the body of a rider in the most unexpected of places. So how did he get into a locked police station? 

3. DI Neville Parker

Death in Paradise season 12 leading man Ralf Little as Neville Parker.

Ralf Little is DI Neville Parker (Image credit: BBC / Red Planet / Amelia Troubridge)

DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little)

The Royle Family star Ralf seemed an unusual choice to replace Ardal's Jack Mooney. Neville was a bag of neuroses and allergies in his early days in Saint Marie. A candidate for an early return if ever there was one, but here he is still in Death in Paradise season 12.

What the viewers thought

"I do love the old-fashioned way Neville talks, it’s very adorable."

What to Watch thought

DI Parker has been on the biggest journey of all four detectives. He didn't get off to a great start when he mistook the commissioner for his cab driver and has battled to make himself at home. He is ultra-straight, sensitive to the sun and methodical, but his saving grace is his ability to solve cases. 

The character was a bit annoying at first, with all his neuroses rather taking over but the makers have luckily toned that side of his character down and he has grown on us over time. And it looks like Neville might finally get the romance he craves in this series...

Best case

Fake or Fortune (Season 10, Episode 6) — The famous episode in which DI Poole returns from the dead in a dream sequence, sees Neville solve a mystery from the past that unlocks the truth of who murdered a concert pianist and why. Sara Martins made a popular, but brief return as DS Bordey.

2. DI Humphrey Goodman

DI Goodman

Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman (Image credit: BBC)

DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall)

DI Goodman arrived on Saint Marie to solve the case of his predecessor's murder at the start of season 3. His clumsy, forgetful nature seemed at odds with the seriousness of his first case and his position, but that awkward exterior belied an unexpectedly sharp sleuthing brain.

What the viewers thought

"DI Mooney was good but Humphrey was and will always be my favourite".

What to Watch thought

Humphrey was amiable and accident-prone and an apparent lightweight, but his focus on the smaller details and his gradual wardrobe — and attitude — transformation meant he made Saint Marie and Death in Paradise his. Despite his love for Camille, the appearance of an old friend, Martha (Sally Bretton), meant he was destined to return to Blighty and after four series. Excitingly, Humphrey and Martha will now be seen in spin-off show, Beyond Paradise. Kris Marshall did extremely well to keep the show's success going and helped laid the foundation for why the show is still a hit today,

Best case

Man Overboard Parts 1 & 2 (Season 6, Episodes 5-6) — the death of a charter boat captain sees Humphrey and DS Florence Cassell head to London on the trail of a group of bankers in the episodes which see the end of his tenure and the introduction of DI Jack Mooney. A perfectly judged conclusion to our DI's four years.

1. DI Richard Poole

Ben Miller

Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole (Image credit: BBC/Red Planet)

DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller)

DI Poole arrived in Saint Marie in 2011, sent by the Metropolitan Police in London to solve the riddle of a fellow policeman's murder. He genuinely was a fish out of water with his briefcase, suit and sniffy personality.

What the viewers thought

“Richard Poole is still my favorite #DeathInParadise D.I. I’ll welcome any appearance by @ActualBenMiller though I prefer to think his character’s death NEVER happened and Richard was just transferred back to England & is happily tucking into a plate of roast beef”

What to Watch thought

The first and the best. Ben Miller more than anyone made the show a hit and he was perfect as DI Poole. He and Sara Martins as DS Camille Bordey also enjoyed a memorable love/hate relationship, with more than a dash of chemistry.

DI Poole was a cold and calculating detective — to begin with anyway. He wasn’t without humor but his stiff upper lip approach and psychological acuity meant he was hard to warm to. However, his growing appreciation for island life and genuinely touching relationship with Camille Bordey meant there was genuine sorrow from fans when he was murdered at the start of season 3.

Best case

A Dash of Sunshine (Season 2, Episode 6) — DI Poole investigates the case of a woman strangled in her villa while the husband is an ex-colleague of his who used to bully our star. It’s obvious that the husband did it… isn’t it? A classic whodunit with Ben Miller at his deductive best. 

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.

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