Television adaptation of crime fiction


Crime novels have been adapted into TV shows since television was invented. From Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Inspector Poirot to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, some of crime fiction’s most iconic characters have sprung to life on the silver screen. Today, television adaptations of crime fiction don’t just retell our favorite mysteries – many TV shows strive to make them even better. These crime shows on TV right now approach the thrillers upon which they’re based from new perspectives and add new dimensions, shedding new light on our favorite crime fiction books.

Arguably the most frequently adapted character in crime fiction, Sherlock Holmes has appeared in countless television series, films, and even a Broadway musical – but the most recent reworking gives his story a new spin. In Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is a modern-day consultant for the New York City Police department, assisted by his sober-companion turned-protégé Dr. Joan Watson. Working outside the bounds of police procedure, he relies on his own powers of deduction to solve criminal cases. This television adaptation of crime fiction honors Arthur Conan Doyle’s original mysteries with appearances by Mycroft Holmes, old contacts from Scotland Yard, and of course, Moriarty – who in this incarnation is not only Holmes’ nemesis, but also his very pretty, very female former lover.

In the hit TV show Bones, viewers get a glimpse of a younger version of Dr. Temperance Brennan, the forensic anthropologist from the bestselling thrillers by Kathy Reichs. A forensic anthropologist herself, Reichs has penned more than 15 mysteries about Dr. Brennan, and she consults regularly with writers of the TV show. Bones is a loose television adaptation of crime fiction and Reich’s life and follows Brennan years before the mysteries take place, serving as a prequel to Reich’s series of thrillers. In a tongue-in-cheek twist, the television character Brennan writes her own New York Times bestselling novels about Kathy Reichs – one of which is adapted into a movie in a storyline on the show.

Author Tess Gerritsen introduced homicide detective Jane Rizzoli in 2001 in her first crime fiction thriller, The Surgeon, and partnered her with medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles in her successful Rizzoli & Isles mysteries. The crime fiction series now includes 10 books – with the next due in 2014 – and has received the Nero Award for best mystery novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award and a Macavity Award. In this television adaptation of crime fiction, Rizzoli & Isles has lightened Gerritsen’s gritty tone while still dealing with the important issues found in the novels – like complicated family dynamics, career/life balance, and working as a woman in a male-dominated world.

While Jack Davis, Lou Mason and Alex Stone have yet to grace the silver screen, they’ll follow a grand tradition if they do. Television adaptation of crime fiction is bringing characters to life in new ways –giving us even more to love about our favorite crime fiction heroes.