What’s better than being entertained by an engaging mystery? The best keep our minds active and our hearts pounding. Amazon Prime Video has an array of wonderful options — especially valuable when the majority of Americans are asked to stay home.
Whether you prefer series or one-offs, here’s a look at 10 that run the gamut from classic whodunits to a witty parody of the genre.
Famed dramatist J.B. Priestly set his clever detective story in 1912, in a grand British house. The inspector is ostensibly investigating the suicide of a young woman, but it’s so much more! A scathing examination of class, entitlement and guilt, “AIC” raises key questions about our responsibility for others — and how indifference can prove deadly.
2. Sneaky Pete
There are swindlers — and there is Pete. A con man eager to escape a gangster takes refuge in Connecticut, where he convinces a bail-bonds family he’s their long-lost grandson. Of course, the Bernhardts have nasty secrets of their own — and danger lurks everywhere. If lying were an Olympic sport, Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) would win the gold. The action is fast and furious. Expect to sit on the edge of your seat for most of the three seasons.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the world’s first consulting detective — but he was inspired, in part, by Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon who believed close observation was essential to a diagnosis. A surgeon who lectured at Doyle’s medical school, Bell gets to illustrate his genius for deduction and crime solving in “Murder Rooms.” Sherlock Holmes fans will be intrigued, as the cases often prove a Holmes’ adage: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Part of Amazon’s International mystery series, “De Luca” is set in fascist Italy, beginning in 1938. Mussolini controls the nation and corruption is rife. De Luca isn’t swayed by power. He’s like Sam Spade, relentless in his pursuit of justice — but devoid of snappy dialogue. The art direction is first-rate and the image of a lone man determined to right wrongs, whatever the costs, is telling. In Italian, with subtitles.
5. ABC Murders
It’s impossible to discuss mysteries without mentioning Agatha Christie, the best-selling fiction writer of all time. Here, her Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is older, but his powers have not dimmed. Poirot is sent various letters that taunt him about future murders. The new police inspector isn’t taking him seriously, as Poirot races to prevent the killings. In a twist, American actor John Malkovich is the lead — and neatly acquits himself in the role.
The handsomest man ever to strap on a dog collar, Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) loves jazz, whiskey and mysteries. And he gets plenty of opportunities to solve them alongside Detective Inspector Keating (Robson Green), who welcomes his insights. Sidney might live in a village near picturesque Cambridge, but murder and mayhem are rampant in this cozy British setting.
This isn’t a convention mystery, but it is a hilarious 2007 British comedy. It’s all about family secrets, missing bodies and crazy mishaps at the death of the family patriarch. It’s got a stellar cast, including Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Graves and Peter Dinklage. No one pulls off aplomb like the English.
A U.S. intelligence officer goes undercover at a Midwest factory. He’s a mild-mannered middle management guy at a Midwest piping company — when he’s not a secret agent trying to stop Iran from going nuclear. Tense, thrilling and dangerous, once the action starts, it never lets up, proving things are rarely what they seem.
9. Sherlock Holmes: A Woman in Green / Dressed to Kill / Terror by Night
The three 1946 films, approximately 60 to 90 minutes each, are based on the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Basil Rathbone plays the unflappable sleuth and Nigel Bruce is the bumbling, but dependable Dr. Watson. All are shot in glorious black and white. Whether safeguarding the Star of Rhodesia on a train to Scotland or deciphering the meaning behind three seemingly insignificant music boxes, the great London detective dazzles.
10. A Touch of Cloth
This is a brilliant send-up of British police procedurals. The wisecracks are piled one on top of another, never mind the endless visual jokes. Every cliché of the genre is parodied. Watch and listen carefully to ensure you don’t miss the digs. The six-episode series stars John Hannah (“The Mummy”) as Jack Cloth, a grizzled police detective with the requisite personal demons, and Suranne Jones (“Gentleman Jack”) as his bisexual colleague.