Books

7 Detective Series Perfect for On-screen Adaptation

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If there’s one literary genre that is never neglected when it comes to adaptations, it’s the mystery thriller. From the James Bond films to Amazon’s “Bosch” to the two Wallander television series (a Swedish and British one), it may seem like there’s no crime book series that hasn’t graced a silver or small screen. And why not? The suspense and expert plotting is built right in, as well as a charismatic lead character. But there remain many rich, (relatively) untapped sources, and we’ve assembled some of our favorites here.

  • The cover of the book Cover Her Face

    Cover Her Face

    The Adam Dalgliesh mysteries by P. D. James
    Some audiences may know P. D. James best for her dystopian thriller Children of Men, adapted to screen in 2006 by Alfonso Cuaron. But her fourteen novels about the Scotland Yard detective chief who writes poetry, drives swank cars, and is tall, dark, and beautifully brooding are all the rage with many more audiences, especially in the U.K. Though Dalgiesh has graced many a British television, we think it’s high time he made it to American screens. Think of him as a Mr. Darcy with a police badge.

     
  • The cover of the book In the Woods

    In the Woods

    A Novel

    The Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French
    This Irish detective series could be the crime thriller equivalent of “The Avengers” in that a rotating cast of interconnected Dublin investigators take the lead from book to book. What remains consistent is French’s deft balance of psychological insight, police procedural, and just the right dash of Irish blarney. Bringing these babies to screen could reboot Ben Affleck’s career even better than a Dennis Lehane adaptation could.

     
  • The cover of the book A Is for Alibi

    A Is for Alibi

    The Alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton
    Full disclosure: Sue Grafton has gone on record to say that she’s adamantly against the adaptation of this series. But its protagonist – the twice-divorced, 1980s-era California lady detective Kinsey Millhone – would be make such an appealing onscreen character that it’s impossible to give up the ghost. I see Holly Hunter or even Brie Larson in the role: tough, fair-minded broads whose secret vulnerabilities only make them more endearing.

     
  • The cover of the book The Bat

    The Bat

    The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel

    The Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo
    His mother belonged to the Sami People, the one protected indigenous tribe of Scandinavia. His sister has Down’s Syndrome. And he drinks like a fish and suffers no fool gladly. It’s no wonder that Norwegian detective Harry Hole is his Oslo police department’s resident rebel; he and his family have felt like outsiders for as long as he can remember. Michael Fassbender already played him in the forthcoming film “The Snowman,” but this brooding, brilliant series would make the perfect TV project for none other than David Fincher.

     
  • The cover of the book The Murder at the Vicarage

    The Murder at the Vicarage

    The Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie
    The sweet-old-lady demeanor of Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s legendary laywoman detective, has always meant she’s the ultimate stealth weapon. She is also the ultimate stealth star of television and film – or at least she was. In places as far-ranging as Japan, England, and mid-twentieth-century Hollywood, Marple has seen her fair share of screens. In 2015, CBS announced another adaptation was in the works; however, it never came to fruition. That’s a shame, because America is in dire need for for a new Miss Marple, preferably in a film starring Dame Judi Dench or (gasp) Helen Mirren. Sly and tart, an updated Marple could offer us a new model of woman wisdom.

     
  • The cover of the book Wife of the Gods

    Wife of the Gods

    A Novel

    The Darko Dawson books by Kwei Quartey
    In these never-simple whodunits, Darko Dawson, a chief inspector in Accra, Ghana, carefully steps around the many landmines (and literal goldmine, in one case) of his country as he meticulously solves the politically charged mysteries that cross his path. He’s a crackerjack unto himself – I see Idris Elba taking these reins – and a television adaptation could highlight the subtle cultural and geopolitical observations Quartey weaves into each of these tales.

     
  • The cover of the book The Devotion of Suspect X

    The Devotion of Suspect X

    The Detective Galileo books by Keigo Higashino
    Keigo Higashino’s series is already all the rage in Japan, thriving as the subject of film and TV adaptations as well as best-selling books. But it’s time America was graced with an adaptation of them as well – preferably in a television series. The “Galileo” in question is a sort of “House MD,” an eccentric brainiac who reviews evidence assembled by others until he sees what everyone else is missing. Frankly, I’m surprised that some television exec hasn’t already tried to pass this premise off as his own.