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Enough Sherlock Holmes. Adapt These Detective Novels.

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

I know enough about Hollywood to know that the train of Sherlock Holmes adaptations is going to continue — most of the stories are in the public domain. Sherlock Holmes (and Watson of course — we can’t forget it’s a duo) are instantly recognizable to audiences, even if they’ve never read a single of Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. So let me start by saying for the love of $*#@& please adapt Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series already. But also, for the love of @&*@#$, do you know how many fantastic detective (private investigator) works exist that should also get the same Sherlock Holmes movie adaptation treatment? A lot.

So by all means, keep the Sherlock trains choo-choo-ing all the way, but also add more trains. I’ll even help and make it easy. I’m going to list, off the top of my head, nine works below that I’ve read and can imagine on the big screen and/or the home screen. That’s right, I know what age we live in, and streaming series are just as worthy of a giant tub of popcorn. I aimed for two things: at least one private investigator along with exciting stories and characters worthy of big names and big productions.

cover of Bury Me When I’m Dead (Charlie Mack Motown Mystery #1) by Cheryl A. Head, featuring a Black person's hands tied behind a chair

Bury Me When I’m Dead (Charlie Mack Motown Mystery #1) by Cheryl A. Head

I’m gonna start with not one PI. Not even two PIs. No, you get a whole team of PIs! It’s set in Detroit, in the aughts, with cases that have them traveling to other states starting with Birmingham, Alabama. We have Charlie Mack who started the PI firm with Don and Gil, who she previously worked with at INS/homeland security. Rounding out the team is Judy, the office manager who quotes musicals to annoy Don and gets in on the action. The ability for mystery fans to follow clues from beginning to end is there, plus action and a team of characters with very different personalities for plenty of storylines and banter!

cover image for The Spellman Files

The Spellman Files (The Spellmans #1) by Lisa Lutz

If the popularity of shows like Arrested Development tell us anything, it’s that people love family drama and zany characters. Enter the Spellman family, a family of PIs. That’s right: a family of PIs, and they are of the dysfunctional family variety, but not the cruel kind. Set in San Francisco and starting with the daughter in her 20s having to solve the case of her missing teen sister, this will bring in all the audiences looking for a fun time filled with dark-ish humor.

cover image of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #1) by Vaseem Khan

You know how the Paddington films digitally added our little adorable bear? That but a baby elephant! Seriously, imagine a PI, retired from the police force, who has inherited a baby elephant — how do I get on this inheritance list?! — racing through India to solve mysteries. Who doesn’t want that film?!

cover image for august snow

August Snow (August Snow #1) by Stephen Mack Jones

This series feels written for fans of action films, so right there we got the movie feeling. It stars an ex-marine, ex-cop who won a huge wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the police department returning to his childhood home in Mexicantown, Detroit. But he’s not going to get much peace, being that he’s working to help out in the community, and even though he turns down a case, once he finds out she’s died, he kind of has to start looking into it. We’ve already covered the action being perfect for adaptation, but the community also lends itself to making a great cast of characters and setting.

cover of Broken Places by Tracy Clark

Broken Places (Cass Raines #1) by Tracy Clark

Chicago is always a great setting for films, and that’s where Cass Raines is solving crimes. Having left the police force after a frightening incident, she now works as a PI. Her friends are limited, but it does include a nun, and she manages a building, so as much as she wants to keep to herself, she can’t. Her first case is a murdered priest that hits way too close to home, having been her father figure — literally. Costume designers, start picking out coats and boots. I want to relive on the screen all these great cases Raines solves.

cover image of A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

Okay, so technically not official PIs with business cards, seeing as one is a lepidopterist and the other a natural historian, but being that they’re hired every book to solve a mystery, it counts. Also, the pairing of Veronica and Stoker is perfect, as it’s basically a grump and a sunshine will-they-won’t-they situation. So eat your hearts out, audiences. Then toss in all the fun adventures, fantastic banter, humor, and late 1880s London society and fashion and *chef’s kiss*. If I could put Hollywood on timeout for sleeping on this one, I would!

cover image for Volume 1 of Goldie Vance

Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams

Following the popularity of the adaptation of Enola Holmes, here’s another teen that would win audiences hearts with her sleuthing. Plus, this can be filmed the way Pushing Daisies was — including the mom who is a performing mermaid! — and people will throw their money at it. Goldie works in a Florida resort as a valet, but really she just keeps trying to out sleuth the in-house detective–there’s an in-house detective! Between her dad managing the resort, her best friend working there, and the record shop girl she’s got a crush on — and, as mentioned, a live performing mermaid mom — this has so much delightful material for a fantastic mystery film or series. Plus, there is the graphic novel series and the middle grade novel series.

cover image for The Last Place You Look

The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary #1) by Kristen Lepionka

Lepionka has created a fantastic series with an awesome character who evolves a lot. These great mysteries amp up all the way into explosive thriller endings. Roxane Weary has a dead police officer father, an ex-girlfriend she still loves and does a back-and-forth with, is leaning heavily into hot mess territory, and takes on difficult cases that regardless of the danger you cannot get her to quit on. She’s a character audiences will love rooting for as she takes on injustices but also tries to get herself and life in order. And I can already help with the marketing — for fans of Mare of Easttown.

cover image for Silent City

Silent City (Pete Fernandez Mystery #1) by Alex Segura

Bienvenido a Miami — where we’ve got one more hot mess PI who comes a long way through the series from where he starts. Which is: left by his fiancée, fired from his newspaper job, grieving his father, and drinking too much. The series is not only filled with mysteries and action, it also takes you into the Cuban community, exilio, politics, and history with the backdrop of Miami.

The content already exists with so many great PIs in books just waiting for someone to adapt them into a film or series. So if you’re that someone, chop-chop please!

In the meantime, here are some more mysteries worth reading and imagining their adaptation: