Detective Inspector Thomas "Tommy" Lynley (Nathaniel Parker)
It's that we try that makes us heroes, not that we necessarily succeed.
The charismatic, aristocratic main character. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Lynley has moved in the circles of the wealthy, titled, and powerful since birth. Despite his background, however, Lynley is driven by a strong sense of justice, which led him to Scotland Yard, where he rose through the ranks quite rapidly. He is a gifted detective, able to read suspects, motives, and situations like an open book, a talent which is aided by his excellent and extensive education. Unfortunately, his well-meaning arrogance and hardheadedness grate on the nerves of his co-workers, and he has rarely been able to keep a police partner for any great length of time... until a sharp-tongued Detective Sergeant turns his comfortably ordered world upside down.
- Adaptation Dye Job: Blond in the books, brunet in the series.
- Berserk Button: Don't touch his wife, don't hurt a child, and don't touch Barbara Havers.
- Blue Blood: Eighth Earl of Asherton.
- Blue Oni
- British Accents: RP.
- Character Development
- Defective Detective
- Defrosting Ice King: But not by his canonical Love Interest.
- Epiphany Therapy
- Fair Cop
- Gentleman Detective
- Gentleman Snarker
- The Hero
- Just Friends: With Barbara.
- Married to the Job: This was a primary factor in his marriage problems.
- Non-Idle Rich
- The Not Love Interest: Is this to Barbara.
- One Head Taller
- Relationship Upgrade
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Which is quite an interesting contrast to his Affectionate Spitfire of a partner. When it's Sugar-meets-Sugar, the result is a Friendship Moment. When it's Sugar-meets-Fire or Sugar-meets-Ice, one or both get hurt. When it's Fire-meets-Ice, the result is predictable.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Barbara.
- You Called Me "X" - It Must Be Serious: Before series 6, we only heard him call Havers 'Barbara' during particularly emotional moments. (This excludes their time at his family estate in Cornwall.)
Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers (Sharon Small)
You mean I get to be in charge of more than just choosing the right sandwiches?
Lynley's stubborn, hot-tempered, socially-inept, working-class partner. Havers' rough background has left her bitter and broken, determined to hurt the world before it hurts her, and so she hides her compassionate heart behind sarcasm and anger. Although her education is far from elite, this has not prevented her from becoming a clever, dedicated detective in her own right. Havers is anything but unintelligent, and a life among London's working poor has given her street smarts and the ability to see things others don't. Her temper and smart mouth have got her into trouble more than once, however, and no one really wants to break through her mask... until she's assigned to a blue-blooded Detective Inspector who refuses to conform to any of her preconceptions.
- Action Girl
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Barbara Havers in the books is ugly and overweight. Sharon Small is... not. Elizabeth George, author of the book series the show was based on, was initially upset about this, until Small won her over with her performance as Havers.
- Affectionate Spitfire: Type A, though she softens into a more balanced mix of type A and type B as the show goes on.
- Badass Adorable
- Berserk Button: Whatever you do, don't hurt a child, and don't hurt Thomas Lynley.
- British Accents: Estuary English with an East London twist - more specifically, the dialect of the East End.
- Broken Bird
- Character Development
- The Consigliere
- Deadpan Snarker/The Snark Knight: That poor, dear girl.
- Dead Little Brother
- Defective Detective
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Done not by a Love Interest, but by her Most Important Person.
- Damsel in Distress: Although she always inflicts significant damage and has in a few cases escaped just as Lynley got there. This trope seems to be less about Barbara's ability to take care of herself and more about the fact that putting her in danger is the fastest way to make Lynley suffer.
- Badass Damsel: She is not amused when people pull this with her, and she makes sure they know it.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!
- Fair Cop: Not that she's aware of it, and she wouldn't believe you if you told her.
- Fake Brit: Sharon Small, who played the working-class East London Havers, is Scottish.
- Fiery Redhead
- Friend to All Children
- Friendless Background
- Good Is Not Nice
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Oh boy.
Lynley: The woman is a minefield!
- Honest Advisor: To Lynley.
- Jerkass Facade: Her harsh, defensive shell is a very thin skin under which lies a tenderhearted and deeply insecure woman with No Social Skills.
- Jerkass Woobie: She starts out this way.
- Just Friends: With Lynley.
- Knight in Sour Armor
- The Lancer: To Lynley.
- No Social Skills
- Not Good with People
- The Not Love Interest: Is this to Lynley.
- One Head Shorter
- Puppy Dog Eyes
- Red Oni
- Sarcastic Devotee
- Shipper on Deck: Apparently for Lynley and Helen.
- Sliding Scale of Beauty: Cool Average. While Sharon Small is truly lovely, a bad haircut and complete lack of fashion sense mean that Barbara Havers is utterly unremarkable until she smiles.
- Stepford Snarker: Though she is naturally sarcastic, she turns it Up to Eleven to hide just how damaged and hurt she is.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Lynley.
- When She Smiles: Just look!