Books into Television

If you ever take a look at the library’s Facebook page on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., you will see that I am a fan of mysteries, mainly based in the United Kingdom, and their corresponding television series. To me, these pairings fall into two categories—one where the television series is very similar to the books (or, as similar as it can be) and one where there are similarities, such as characters’ names, but the stories are completely different. This second category is easier to deal with since you can read the books as quickly as you like without worrying about ruining your viewing pleasure.

Here are some of my favorites and a few I have not seen because I do not want to watch the mystery before I read it! All are owned by the Mercer County Library System.
Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries

The Murdoch Mysteries television series is based on books by Maureen Jennings. The main character is William Murdoch, a detective with the Toronto police. The books and series take place in the 1890’s. Jennings’s books are straight police procedurals. The crimes are serious and you learn a bit about history through the investigation. The television series, on the other hand, is often laugh-out-loud funny. Although the crimes are just as serious, there is a levity not found in the books. Famous historical figures, such as Mark Twain and Winston Churchill, get involved in the mysteries. Murdoch is an amateur inventor and introduces many forensic techniques throughout the show.
Wallander

Wallander

Wallander is a Swedish detective created by Henning Mankell. This is a DVD series that is very close to the stories in the books so I would recommend reading first. Being familiar with the story also helped because these are often dense, complicated mysteries. Wallander can be a bit depressing —he is not a happy man, he has difficulties with his family, work gets him down—but, the character is interesting and the mysteries are absorbing. Be warned—the television version is long and you need to pay attention. I watched the BBC series with Kenneth Branaugh as Wallander. He is not who I pictured while reading, but he does a really good job getting the feeling of the books across. The library also owns the Swedish Wallander television series.
Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders

Caroline Graham wrote seven novels featuring Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, five of which were filmed for the Midsomer Murders television series. This series is a blending of my categories—the filmed stories were very similar to the books but were enjoyable to read even after knowing whodunit. Based on those few stories, the Midsomer Murders television show is now in its 19th season, with 116 episodes to binge watch. My favorite episode is “The Electric Vendetta” from season four.

Ones I am eager to watch but have not seen because I have not finished the books yet include:

Shetland

DCI BanksShetland is based on Ann Cleeves’s novels set in the Shetland Islands. I have read three of the seven novels and cannot wait (but can because I do not want to get through all the books too fast!) to see how television treats Jimmy Perez and his beloved islands.

DCI Banks

Banks reminds me of a tougher Tom Barnaby—they have a lot of the same inner qualities but Banks is a little less polished on the job. Peter Robinson has written 23 mysteries featuring Alan Banks and I have just finished number 11. The television series shows a Banks from later in the book series—when I saw a few minutes of one and realized things had happened in his personal life I was not aware of, I left the room!
Dalziel and Pascoe

Dalziel and Pascoe

Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe are like Colin Dexter’s Morse and Lewis but with a less-likable Morse. You as the reader will like him, but the people around him think he is rude and brash. Pascoe just wants to do a good job and stay in Dalziel’s good graces. I am interested to see how their relationship is shown in the television series. I can already picture Warren Clarke being a good Dalziel.

—Andrea at the Hopewell Branch

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