I sense I am about to kick myself for not paying more attention to TV over the years, because Georgina Turner at The Guardian has identified "six amateur (non-police) TV sleuths", about whom she writes: "They're not on Her Majesty's payroll, yet somehow they constantly find themselves banging up badduns. Have-a-go heroes or interfering know-it-alls, we're not sure, but we do know one thing: Britain would be overrun with cunning killers without them."
Before reading any further I was sure I was going to demur, as one has to disagree with these lists on principle, and sure enough I do. The six honoured tecs are: Miss Marple (obvious, but fair enough, I suppose); Jonathan Creek (watched one episode once, hated it for the facile lack of actual detection); Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote (please! and what of the "Britain" in the header?); Rosemary and Thyme (never watched it, but according to the reviews it was (is?) poor); Scooby Doo (er? real? and "Britain" again?); and Dick van Dyke as Dr Mark Sloan in Diagnosis Murder (never seen it, but can it be British? Wasn't Burt the chimney sweep enough of us for him?)
So, not watching TV is a bit of a challenge, but in addition to Miss Marple and without leaving these shores, I would venture to suggest (from my era): Hazell (Nicholas Ball); Brother Cadfael (Derek Jacobi); Eddie Shoestring (Trevor Eve); Anna Lee (Imogen Stubbs); and, of course, Sherlock Holmes (various). But I could equally have chosen Hercule Poirot (David Suchet), Hetty Wainthropp (Patricia Routledge – never watched but the name has stuck), Lovejoy (Ian McShane), Cordelia Grey (via P. D. James) and even Lord Peter Wimsey (Ian Carmichael, who did a good job with a spectacular bit of mis-casting). There must be lots of others given how much TV I have missed in the past 18 years - and even so I was not reduced to Scooby Doo.
Anyone got any better ideas? Top six fictional (book) amateur detectives? Top six US TV amateur detectives?