You’ve read all the books in your favorite mystery series. The description of the characters and the settings by the author are so good that you can see them in your mind. You’d love to see these books made in a visual medium. Let’s get it going, and, please, let’s get it right! Faithful fans want televised characters and settings to remain faithful to the books.
Every book series from the venerable Sherlock Holmes to the audacious, very modern 1920’s woman Phryne Fisher to almost anything by Agatha Christie has found its way into a televised series. Mystery novels keep their fans turning the pages long into the night; if the mystery is suspenseful and the pace is fast, you begin to look for the next book in the series. If it’s a detective series, there’s always another mystery for your favorite detective to solve in the next book. It makes perfect sense that TV would adapt these detective/mystery books for a series of the same name, since they are highly marketable commodities.
The hardest part of bringing well-loved characters “to life” is finding the actor who can faithfully portray them and make readers believe in their credibility. We’re hard to please when it comes to actors playing our favorite literary characters or, God forbid, make any dramatic changes to them.
Despite the success of the latest Sherlock Holmes films, many Holmes-ian purists were not satisfied with the movies starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. They preferred their 221B Baker Street gentlemen to be played by actors who solved cases with their brains instead of CGI effects.
And, the idea that has been whispered around TV series execs this year, the one that would make the elderly Miss Marple into a modern, sexy young, crime-solving Ms. Marple, has caused intensely worried Twitter discussions among diehard fans.
If the actors read the books and do their homework thoroughly (though not technically a mystery series, the actors in Game of Thrones were required to research their characters through the books in the series), a good series can provide viewers with a bit of mystery, a bit of soap opera, a bit of character study, and a pleasure for readers of the books to view. I’ve been watching mysteries for many years, and I love to see the characters of my favorite books come alive on the screen.
As readers of mystery books, we quickly identify with the stories through the characters; authors know that this is the most powerful way to reach a reading audience. When we connect with the book’s characters on an emotional level, the interaction becomes deep and meaningful, and this is what we hope to see portrayed on the screen.
To that end, we want to see well-written scenes that include our favorite characters’ emotions, problems, and lives played out exactly, or as near to exact as possible, to the scenes we love in the books. We want to bond with the characters on the screen, just as we’ve bonded to the original ones in the book.
Creating a series out of a book, with actors who can fit the descriptions of beloved characters and get it “just right,” can be an interesting and rewarding enterprise. Seeing your favorite mystery book made into a series is similar to actually meeting the characters you love.
If you have a favorite mystery series based on books that you have read, let me know in the comments section of this article if you found it to be faithful to the stories and characters. I’d love to hear from you!
Kristen Houghton is hard at work on the third book in the best-selling Cate Harlow Private Investigation series to be published summer, 2016. She is a linguist and the author of nine top-selling books. Before pursuing writing full-time, she was an educator who taught the languages and cultures of Italy and Spain.