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Who is the best detective in ‘Death in Paradise’? We review the DIs

Death in Paradise - the Commissioner, Neville and Naomi
DI Neville Parker, the commissioner and Naomi (Image credit: BBC / Red Planet / Denis Guyenon)

Ralf Little has confirmed he is returning to Saint Marie as DI Neville Parker for more sleuthing in Death in Paradise season 12, which is welcome news of course as fans warm to him with two series under his belt.

Ralf Little tweeted his thanks to ‘everyone for watching’.

“It is a privilege to play Neville and lead this fantastic show, and it gives me great pleasure to confirm I’ll be returning to Saint Marie for series 12.”

It’s terrific that he has been confirmed for a new series, proof that producers are happy with the way he has grown into the role and been adopted by the DiP faithful, but it has got us reminiscing about detective inspectors past and wondering who was best.

Who is the No 1 Detective in Death in Paradise?

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 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 What to Watch thought

DI Poole was a cold and calculating detective – to begin with anyway. He wasn’t without humour 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 DS Camille Bordey (Sara Martins) 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. 

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 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, we bid him adieu.

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.

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 What to Watch thought

Jack doesn't have the gravitas of Poole or the immediate humour 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 was very successful and drove the show from season 6 to midway through season 9. He was part of Saint Marie's furniture by the time he left.

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? 

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 Jack Mooney. Neville was a bag of neuroses and allergies in his early says on Saint Marie and his pale skin was particularly out of place in the Caribbean. A candidate for an early return if ever there was one, but here he is, having announced he will return as the lead in season 12.

What the viewers thought

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

What 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 the cases. As well, he is adapting to the island and if he ever finds a romance, could well make himself a permanent fixture.

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.

What to Watch’s no 1 ‘Death in Paradise’ detective: DI Humphrey Goodman

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.