Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes

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Series 1 - Episode 1 Detectives



Andrew Marr is a fitting, enthusiastic guide through genre fiction in this jolly three-part series. “Sleuths” are his first topic, beginning with the golden age of detective fiction – the 1920s and 30s – and therefore, of course, with Agatha Christie.

As the late PD James says in a 2012 clip, murder mysteries offer us “entertainment, and relief from the trauma of everyday life”, which may seem contradictory. But as Marr explores, comfort comes not from the stories’ violent deeds but from the sense of ordered morality that the resolved whodunnit restores.

“We know precisely what we’re going to get,” says Marr, as he lays out the rules of detective fiction. He also finds time to discuss his hypothetical murder with Anthony Horowitz, talk Jimmy Savile with Val McDermid and show off an impressive knack for accents. Next time: fantasy.


The broadcaster explores the genres of fiction that are the most popular with the general public, unpicking their conventions to show why they are such page-turners. He begins by looking at detective novels, profiling pioneers Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Ruth Rendell, and decoding set-pieces such as Hercule Poirot's drawing room denouements and the locked room mysteries of John Dickson Carr. With contributions by Ian Rankin, Sophie Hannah, Anthony Horowitz and Val McDermid.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Andrew Marr
Director Sebastian Barfield
Executive Producer Michael Poole
Series Producer Sebastian Barfield
Documentary Arts