Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to read a book right before its televised version. The book’s details are still too vivid, and all the differences between book and TV jumped out at me when I watched the first episode of Case Histories online just now.
Beginning with the story being set in Edinburgh, not Cambridge! However, the second book in the series, One Good Turn, is set in Edinburgh (just started it; post to come)—so I’m guessing that this where the series (in print) settles in. No surprise, really, as Atkinson has set other works there, such as many of her stories in Not the End of the World.
I had my own inner vision of the book’s characters, of course—and so was surprised that Theo Wyre wasn’t obese, Lily-Rose wasn’t yellow-haired, and Julia was much less annoying (and didn’t have hair like a poodle—although possibly that was just how her sister Amelia thought she looked). And Officer Louise Fletcher isn’t even a character in Case Histories (the book). I expect to meet her in One Good Turn, as she is apparently a continuing character.
Why Jackson has tattoos on TV but most explicitly not in the book is a puzzle. And no two-million-pound inheritance from Binky Rains! It’s just Louise’s joke in the TV version—which heightens my suspicions about what will happen in One Good Turn (the book): there are early rumblings about Jackson’s lost sense of self-worth vs. his net worth. But overall, Jason Isaacs convinced me as Brodie (and Atkinson herself also approves, as noted in a clip she did for PBS/Masterpiece). He’s tough-looking but also able to portray Brodie’s gentler side: his love for his daughter, his grief over his murdered sister, his patience with Binky, his empathy for his clients’ troubles.
All the ways that the book’s narrative was mashed and strained underline how difficult it must be to revise a lengthy book into a two-hour TV drama. I did appreciate that the drama preserved some of Atkinson’s fluid movement between past and present (and, interestingly, a number of those scenes are watery ones: rainstorms and riverbeds).
I have to wonder if Atkinson wrote Case Histories as a stand-alone novel—and when it became successful, she needed to create a stronger arc to support a detective series. Hence, Edinburgh, Fletcher, and no lasting riches for Brodie. Plus on TV, Brodie has a hushed-up, troubled past with the police force. It’s never enough that our detectives solve other people’s mysteries; we like them to have some mystery of their own.
I’m breezing through One Good Turn now, before next week’s drama is broadcast (or will have to avoid watching until I finish the book). Thank goodness for PBS’s online viewing option (time-limited though it is)—I’m not locked in to Sunday night as a deadline.