Detective novels are a crowded arena of eccentric personalities and flawed characters. The simple, gruff gumshoe serving an unbreakable ethical code does not hold the attention it once did. To capture an audience, an author must concoct an utterly unique set of circumstances around its hero and populate their mind with a dark psychological landscape that is initially offputting to the reader before wrangling them behind their POV through sheer empathetic force. Jeff Lindsay found commercial success with his serial killing pathologist Dexter, Michael Connelly in the questionably gray morality of Bosch, and Jeffery Deaver in his misanthropic quadriplegic, Lincoln Rhyme.
Deaver may not be a name on the tongue of every American, but he’s fueled a prolific career off the back of his preternaturally brilliant detective, and it appears that he will get another boost in popularity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rhyme’s first major case, that of The Bone Collector, is on the docket for an adaptation to series at NBC. The novel was originally translated cinematically in 1999 with Denzel Washington in the lead role and Angelina Jolie as his NYPD assistant. The film was a modest hit but never managed to spinoff into sequel adventures like the novels.
Rhyme is housebound, confined to a bed after a crime-scene accident involving a plummeting beam of metal left him paralyzed from the neck down. He initially fell into a black hole of depression until a serial killer nicknamed “The Bone Collector” (because you guessed it, he collected bone fragments from his victims) teases him out of retirement. While Rhyme cannot venture out into the field to perform investigations or physically fight off villains, his buddy cop Amelia Donaghy can and does. Together they would defeat this maniac as well as 10 others in various mysteries.
The network has mandated a premium script order and is referred to in THR’s post as being on “the higher side of a script deal.” More money means that they’re putting quite a bit of confidence behind the concept. The series will apparently revolve around the first novel, a concept that Amazon has successfully mined with their Bosch adaptation, and the first script will be provided by executive producers Mark Bianculli and VJ Boyd.
Bianculli has a few credits to his name but is best known for the James Caan serial killer feature The Good Neighbor. While it is hard for me to get excited around Boyd’s association with the latest incarnation of SWAT, his work on FX’s Justified certainly pricks up the ears. That is another title that adapted a popular literary protagonist to thrilling effect. Cast someone as charismatic as Timothy Olyphant and you’ve got a serious hit on your hands.
Deaver’s novels are grisly affairs and are often not afraid to highlight the more negative aspects of its lead character. Lincoln Rhyme can be a jerk or downright mean. He’s a character that often forcefully alienates those around him, and rides through life on his unquestionable intelligence.
Can the studio that thrived on the cookie-cutter formula of Law & Order maintain Rhyme’s broodier habits? Critically NBC flourished in similar dark waters with their Hannibal adaptation, but every season was a battle with showrunner Bryan Fuller. The network has also recently canceled a batch of odd procedurals like The Brave, Taken, and * gasp * Law & Order: True Crime.
The shows that work on NBC are pretty much one-and-done stories with minimal serialization. If The Bone Collector airs with its title intact, that is a pretty big promise of a season-long arc. If the show airs under “Lincoln Rhyme” or “Rhyme” then we can assume we’re in for the usual crime drama fare. Still, NBC will have to maintain the personality of its lead for The Bone Collector to stand out in that crowded cop arena, and it will hopefully not just rely on the gimmick of his physical condition.