This article is the first of a new series of pieces focusing on the novels that deserve either a film or television adaptation and what and who should be involved if one should ever come about.
The Book: The Last Temptation, a 2002 novel by the Scottish writer Val McDermid. This novel features her most famous creation, Dr. Tony Hill, a profiler who attempts to understand the way and workings of the criminal minding using his skills in psychology. McDermid’s novels regularly feature him teaming up with police officer Carol Jordan to hunt down a serial killer. This novel also sees them putting their minds together to stop a killer, who is leaving a gory trail across Europe, but complications are thrown into the mix. Jordan is to go undercover in a major British-German operation to catch a drug dealer and human trafficker.
The Adaptation Format: McDermid’s character, Dr. Tony Hill became the main character of a TV series, Wire in the Blood, which aired on ITV from 2002 until 2008. The format of the series went through a number of changes, from feature-length one-off films to two-part episodes, to single-length episode series. This novel would really benefit from a large canvas. It’s a big international thriller and dives between countries. Serial crime dramas a becoming more in vogue of late, thanks to Scandinavian hits The Killing and The Bridge and recent Brit gems Broadchurch and The Fall. I believe seven hour-long episodes would cover this novel nicely.
Who should make it?: Well, here’s the tricky thing. ITV originally aired the independently produced show Wire in the Blood, and within that series they broadcast a rather loose adaptation of The Last Temptation (renamed Falls the Shadow). To be honest, it didn’t bare much resemblance to the novel, and ITV unceremoniously dropped the series shortly after (despite it being one of the most successful crime dramas on television). So, perhaps a new start might be in order on another channel. How about – and I’m pushing the boat out a bit here – UKTV’s channel Alibi? The series would need a big budget, but this could result in some financing from Europe (a lot of the story is set in Berlin, so maybe Germany could hand over some cash?). It could also be co-funded by BBC America (who co-funded with ITV a previous Wire in the Blood film, Prayer of the Bone) and BBC Worldwide could pick up the distribution rights. This may sound ambitious, but UKTV and BBC Worldwide did resurrect ITV’s series Primeval from the ashes through a co-production deal with European companies, so this could all work rather well. On the directing side of things, I think James Strong could be a good choice. Having superbly directed Broadchurch, Cinemax action series Hunted, and football drama United, he seems like the perfect fit for this story’s blend of subtle crime drama and the more heart-pounding thriller aspects.
Who should be in it: Only Robson Green could ever play Tony Hill, and I believe Val McDermid is a fan of his portrayal of her character, so he shall stay. Carol Jordan was played by Spooks actor Hermione Norris back in the day, but she departed the show rather suddenly and her character was replaced by a new cop. The novel actually deals with the reunion of Hill and Jordan after a period of absence, so this could be the perfect way to bring Hermione Norris back. For the supporting cast, attractive German police officer Petra, who oversees Carol’s undercover operation, would be played very well by Diane Kruger. The drug dealer Carol is tasked to bring down would be suited to Andreas Wilson. True, he is Danish, not German, but I’m sure he could manage a German accent.
The Last Temptation published in paperback by Harper.