From Page to Screen: Cozy Mystery Book-to-TV Adaptations

Part of the magic of cracking the cover of a new book, (and yes, I just admitted to cracking the spines of my paperback books) is the participatory component of storytelling.

Image by Maria Zangone from Pixabay

I have to acknowledge that there is a different UX (User Experience) when a story is delivered through different medium: 1) print paperback, 2) e-books, 3) audio books, and 4) TV adaptations. Each medium has its merits, although I do feel as though I miss a lot of the book’s content when it comes at me too quickly… with exceptions. While reading a paperback copy of Crazy Rich Asians I was left feeling a little ambivalent about the story, but the audio version (on 1.5 speed) made me laugh out loud. A lot of the comedy was lost on me in print form and more apparent in fast speed audio. I really enjoyed the movie adaptation, but other members of my book club were left scratching their heads, but apparently, the book and the movie have different endings. (I honestly cannot remember how the book ended.)

I think my memory lapse can be explained by the idea that the reader brings their lens/worldview to the story and in that way, gains some ownership of that story. Sometimes, we change the story so profoundly, we cannot recall the author’s version. We see this ownership all the time in fanfiction. ( I won’t get into copyright law. The lines continue to blur and will continue with AI and all of its myriad implications, but I celebrate a reader’s participation in making the story their own.)

Charlotte Bronte

I gladly admit to loving a great book-to-TV adaptation. In my case, it’s particularly special, because it always reminds me of a movie I once saw in part. I had to leave off in the middle, in the era before live streaming, video recordings, etc. So imagine my delight (back in the dark ages) when I learned that my movie had been made into a book! A book with a funny name – Jane Eyre by someone named Charlotte Bronte. 😊 Shortly after, when I realized there was a world of “movie” books out there of similar ilk, I began reading the book, then looking for the movie – Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, almost everything by Jane Austen, Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster, (although I have a tough time seeing Fred Astaire as a romantic hero) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott… the list goes on and on.

My reading (and writing) tastes have changed little, but I have been trying to niche my writing and in so doing, I’ve fallen in love all over again with cozy mysteries and I profoundly enjoy their movie/TV adaptations. I don’t feel constrained by it, but rather, expanded. It’s not just the author’s story. It’s the narrator, or the director, as well as the actors’ interpretations that influence and expand on my own vision.

How many versions of Agatha Christie novels have you seen in TV adaptations? Did you watch the Poirot series starring David Suchet? How about the backstory in Murder on the Orient Express in the version featuring Suchet vs. the movie version starring Kenneth Branagh? The Kenneth Branagh version received a little criticism from reviewers centering around the character’s overly enthusiastic moustache. Well, check out the backstory in the Branagh version of Death on the Nile. It’s brilliant! (No spoilers here, but it does give a little hat tip and smack-down of those previous negative reviews of his moustache in Murder on the Orient Express. Nicely done, Branagh!)

Sure, I prefer reading the book BEFORE watching the TV adaptation, and I have been had less than stellar experiences by doing this in reverse. I will never enjoy Craig Johnson’s Longmire series as much as I have enjoyed the TV adaptations. (I’m sorry, but I should never have omniscient knowledge of a romantic hero’s thoughts.) I have found though, that I am rarely disappointed by reading the book first, TV adaptation second. It’s always an expansion of the book.

As for popularity? Just look at the number of adaptations of Jane Eyre for evidence of the enduring appeal of book-to-TV adaptations. And while you’re at it, you may want to check out this bit of Bronte fanfiction. 😊

1 thought on “From Page to Screen: Cozy Mystery Book-to-TV Adaptations”

  1. I try to read the books first. Then, as I watch a TV version or a movie, I’ fill in all the details they left out of the book. I write cozy mysteries and read them, too. Keep at it.

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