Christmas has now become a time for dead bodies and idiosyncratic sleuths to fill our TV schedules and 2016’s festive season will prove no exception. Maigret’s Dead Man and The Witness for the Prosecution will both be a draw for whodunnit devotees, but which other giants of crime fiction are ripe for adaptation? Here’s our pick of 10 detectives that deserve to be brought to the screen…
1. Kay Scarpetta
The term ‘development hell’ could have been created for Scarpetta, with movie rumours circulating for nearly a decade. But with 24 books now featuring Patricia Cornwell’s (below) groundbreaking chief medical examiner, surely that’s the first season of a TV adaptation ready and waiting?
2. Maggie Hope
Quick, Netflix, capitalise on the success of The Crown by securing the rights to Susan Elia MacNeal’s wartime series of mysteries! Protagonist Maggie Hope takes work as Winston Churchill’s secretary and gets embroiled in espionage and murder. In Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, she even goes undercover at Windsor Castle.
3. Ruth Galloway
Norfolk’s salt marshes would make for a dramatic backdrop and Ruth Jones an engaging lead should a production company bring Elly Griffiths’s forensic anthropology mysteries to the screen. In fact, the flat, eerie terrain of East Anglia remains largely untapped as a filming location for crime drama, barring the odd Adam Dalgliesh case…
4. Carole Seddon and Jude Nichols
How about these two being an addition to a strong BBC daytime line-up that already includes the likes of The Coroner and Father Brown? In Simon Brett’s books, retired civil servant Carole and her neighbour Jude become amateur sleuths in the picturesque south coast town of Fethering. Penelope Keith and Eleanor Bron to star, maybe?
5. Lord Peter Wimsey
Dorothy L Sayers’s gentleman detective hasn’t been seen on telly since 1987 when he was played by Edward Petherbridge (below) in a series of BBC adaptations. In an ideal world, Tom Hiddeston would take on the role of the aristocratic sleuth for a Christmas 2017 dramatisation of The Nine Tailors. We can but dream.
6. Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong
Robin Stevens’s 1930s-set Murder Most Unladylike series would delight CBBC audiences. You have two girls (Daisy and Hazel) setting up a secret detective agency at a boarding school filled with poisonings, jewellery thefts and dark doings in shadowy corridors. Period thrills in a cosy location for the pre-teen crowd. It would be a winner.
7. Matthew Shardlake
Way back in 2007, reports broke that Kenneth Branagh was to star in a drama based on CJ Sansom’s Dissolution, but he ended up playing Wallander instead. Now, in a post-Wolf Hall TV landscape, it would be timely to get the cases of hunchbacked 16th-century lawyer Shardlake into production. Perhaps when Branagh has finished filming Murder on the Orient Express…
8. Alan Grant
Inspector Grant may not be as famous as some of his fictional peers, but he featured in two of the most revered crime novels of all time: Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair. In fact, while we’re at it, some of Tey’s standalone stories could also do with a retelling: Brat Farrar, in particular, is terrific.
9. Charles Paris
Bill Nighy (below) has been delighting Radio 4 audiences for years as the louche actor-cum-crimesolver Charles Paris. Like Agatha Raisin before him, Paris should make the leap onto TV. Witty, slightly dissolute and self-effacing, he’d be a brilliant addition to the Sunday-evening schedules. They could even get him breaking the fourth wall a la Lovejoy.
10. Peter Grant
We know that Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy mysteries have been optioned for TV, but there’s still no word on when a Rivers of London series will reach us. For the uninitiated, Peter Grant is a young officer in the Met who – following an encounter with a ghost – is assigned to a small squad dealing with magic and the supernatural. Already a cult hit, these books are crying out to go mainstream in prime time.
Maigret’s Dead Man is on ITV on Christmas Day at 9pm