If crime fiction is an orchard and books are apples, then it’s almost always scrumping season.
Greedy television and movie producers could plant, tend to and grow their own trees and pick their own crops of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious… but it’s a lot easier to just lean over the fence and pinch the odd sweet treat from the orchard next door, isn’t it?
So it’s never a surprise when we look ahead at some of the next year’s big and small screen treats and see it peppered with literary adaptations. Not that we mind, of course. We love crime fiction in all its forms. As long as the pie tastes good and the cider’s refreshing, we don’t mind where the apples come from.
Here are some of the juiciest books that have been made into TV shows and films, due out in 2020.
We hope you’re hungry.
The best books adaptations in 2020
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
This powerful true story from lawyer, activist and writer Bryan Stephenson tells the shocking tale of Walter McMillian – a black man with a white girlfriend – who gets framed for murder. An idealistic young attorney is determined to have his client acquitted and the sheriff that set him up convicted in his place.
Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Tim Blake Nelson, Brie Larson and Rafe Spall feature in this story of racism, corruption and justice. The book exposes the broken US legal system for what it is and there’s little reason to believe that the film won’t follow suit.
Expected release: 10 January
The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell
Northumberland-born writer Mark Burnell’s debut novel has been turned into a big budget action crime thriller affair by Eon, the production company behind the Bond films. So plenty is expected of it. If it proves successful, we could be in for a franchise here.
Blake Lively plays the film’s heroine Stephanie Patrick, a woman on a fact-finding/revenge mission. Kill Your Darlings’ Reed Morano is in the director’s chair, with casting support coming from the likes of Jude Law, Daniel Mays and Max Casella.
We’ve previewed The Rhythm Section before but a series of delays have seen it pushed to early 2020. Keep ‘em peeled for our full review of the film on release.
Expected release: 31 January
The Woman in the Window by A J Finn
Another adaptation that’s seen delays, this book was a hit when it was first released back in 2017. A psychological thriller in a similar mould to other huge hits like Before I Go to Sleep and The Girl on the Train, nearly everyone read this novel when it was first out. So, inevitably, a movie has been made of it.
Amy Adams plays the main character, an agoraphobic psychiatrist who witnesses a nasty murder when snooping on her neighbours. Hanna and Atonement’s Joe Wright directs Adams, as well as Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman.
Expected release: 15 May
Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
Another movie out this year starring Michael B Jordan, Without Remorse sees the Creed star as John Clark, an ex-Navy SEAL turned CIA type who’s hell-bent on vengeance after his girlfriend is murdered by a drug kingpin in Baltimore.
Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith co-star in what could very well be a rather by-the-numbers action flick. But the fact that Sicario 2 and Gomorrah director Stefano Sollima and Hell or High Water’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan are in charge makes us think it could well be a cut above your usual Tom Clancy movie.
Expected release: 18 September
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Sir Kenneth Branagh reintroduced the world to Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. The British thespian didn’t quite manage to stamp his own mark on the character but did create an effective whodunit. This year he’s back with a follow-up.
Christie’s Egypt-set 1937 novel Death on the Nile is next in line and Branagh has assembled yet another impressive ensemble cast. There are some big Hollywood heavy hitters in the shape of Annette Bening, Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot, as well as some faces more associated with British television, such as Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Russell Brand.
Expected release: 9 October
Cherry by Nico Walker
Nico Walker’s 2018 debut novel Cherry is a semi-autobiographical affair, one which was released to universal critical acclaim and praise. A bidding war quickly began and Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s studio AGBO won, buying the rights for $1m. They’ve also directed the project.
Spiderman himself Tom Holland plays Walker – a soldier with PTSD and a crippling drug addiction who takes up a sideline in bank robbery. Ciara Bravo, Bill Skarsgård, Jeff Wahlberg, Forrest Goodluck and Michael Gandolfini support.
If the film is half as good as the book, we’re in for a real treat with this one.
Expected release: TBC
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Pollock’s unflinching 2011 book follows a cast of characters in America’s Midwest as they attempt to navigate the world following the horrors of the Second World War. There’s a vet with severe psychological trauma, a fake preacher and a Bonnie and Clyde-style serial killer couple. Sounds like a great premise for a film, right?
Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Stan Jason Clarke and Riley Keough star. The film will appear directly on Netflix, so keep a lookout for it.
Expected release: TBC
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould
Immensely enjoyable, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny, Howard Michael Gould’s 1982 debut novel Last Looks should have already been made into a movie. It’s incredible that it’s taken nearly three decades. 2020 sees to that with the release of Waldo.
Charlie Hunnam is Waldo, the brilliant but troubled ex-LAPD detective who shrugs off work to go and live off-grid in the woods. Of course, he gets drawn back into solving crimes, this time as a private investigator. His first job? To investigate the weird murder of the wife of a troubled TV actor, played here by Mel Gibson.
Waldo sounds like it has the promise of something of a Shane Black movie like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Nice Guys. We’ll have to wait and see if it can live up to either or maybe even plough a lone furrow.
Expected release: TBC
The Outsider by Stephen King
A respected and well-liked local man is arrested in a small town for the brutal murder of an eleven-year-old boy. There’s DNA evidence and fingerprints tying him to the crime, but he has a solid alibi. So what’s going on…?
Coming from the mind and pen of Stephen King, you know it’s not going to be straightforward, but it’s certainly going to be exciting. And more than a little weird.
This eight-part thriller from HBO has two stellar leads in Jason Bateman (Ozark) and Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline). We expect quality.
Expected broadcast: 12 January (US)
The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
One of the later books by The World’s Greatest Ever Mystery Writer™ Agatha Christie, The Pale Horse concerns itself with a curious letter found in the shoe of a dead woman. The contents of the letter reveal a list of names – one of which is Mark Easterbrook, played by Victoria actor Rufus Sewell, something that comes as a slight surprise to Mr Easterbrook.
This adaptation is bound to be good – it’s being handled by the BBC’s resident Christie whizz Sarah Phelps, the woman behind their versions of The ABC Murders, And Then There Were None and Ordeal by Innocence.
Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Killing Eve), Bertie Carvel (Doctor Foster), Sean Pertwee (Elementary) and Doctor Zhivago‘s Rita Tushingham round out the cast.
Expected broadcast: TBC
So, then… how d’ya like them apples?!
This list is not exclusive, of course. We’ve merely brought to your attention the adaptations that have caught our eye. We’re certain that cinemas and living rooms around the world will see plenty of other excellent crime films and TV shows based on books to entertain you all in 2020.
Have we missed any of the best crime adaptations coming to the big or small screen in 2020? Let us know in the comments below…