10 Crime Drama Series That Started as a Book

10 Crime Drama Series That Started as a Book
Image credit: Legion-Media, globallookpress, HBO, Netflix

These are all brilliant page-to-screen transformations.

1. Dexter (2006-2013, 2021)

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Based on Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, this series introduces us to Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. He's also a serial killer, but not your regular kind. Dexter has a moral code instilled by his adoptive father, Harry: He only kills other criminals. By day, he's analyzing crime scenes, and by night, he's the one creating them. His life gets complicated when his sister, Debra, starts getting closer to catching the "Bay Harbor Butcher," who is, of course, Dexter himself.

2. Mindhunter (2017-2019)

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Inspired by the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, this Netflix series takes us to the late '70s, where FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench team up with psychologist Wendy Carr. Their mission? To study imprisoned serial killers and develop criminal psychology and profiling. As they interview notorious killers, Holden starts to push the boundaries of the law to understand the criminal mind.

3. Sharp Objects (2018)

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This HBO miniseries is an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name. Reporter Camille Preaker, played by Amy Adams, returns to her small hometown to cover the murder of a young girl and the disappearance of another. Camille has to confront her own traumatic past, including her overbearing mother Adora and her half-sister Amma, who's got secrets of her own. The more she digs into the story, the more she realizes her hometown is filled with secrets and lies.

4. True Detective (2014-Present)

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Each season of this anthology series is its own unique story, but it's worth mentioning that the first season was inspired by The King in Yellow, a book of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Season one takes us to Louisiana, where detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart are trying to solve a ritualistic murder. The story flips between the original investigation in 1995 and a new inquiry in 2012. Each detective has his own set of flaws and baggage, making the pursuit of the killer as much about them as it is about the crime.

5. Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)

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This one's a bit of a blend of crime and drama, with a sprinkle of comedy on top. Based on Piper Kerman's memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, the series follows Piper Chapman, a woman sentenced to 15 months in a minimum-security federal prison. From day one, Piper realizes she's way out of her depth. The series goes beyond Piper's fish-out-of-water personal story to explore the lives of her fellow inmates. Some find love; others find a knack for business, all within the confines of the prison walls.

6. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)

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Inspired by Nelson Johnson's book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, this series takes us back to the Prohibition era. Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, a political figure, plays both sides of the law by dabbling in bootlegging while serving as a city treasurer. From mobsters to politicians to law enforcement, Nucky has a finger in every pie. The guy's a genius, but that doesn't mean he's got it all figured out.

7. Big Little Lies (2017-2019)

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Adapted from Liane Moriarty's novel, Big Little Lies unravels in the tranquil beachfront town of Monterey, California. Initially, it's all about the lives of three mothers – Madeline, Celeste, and Jane – but turns darker when a murder occurs. While you see them dealing with issues like domestic violence and infidelity, the real kick is that you don't know who's dead or the murderer until the very end.

8. Hannibal (2013-2015)

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This show explores the early relationship between the infamous cannibal psychiatrist and a young FBI profiler, Will Graham. Will is brilliant but mentally unstable. Hannibal takes a keen interest in him, both as a subject of curiosity and as someone to manipulate for his own amusement. As they work together to solve crimes, Will starts suspecting that the man cooking him exquisite meals might be serving up more than just fine cuisine.

9. Bosch (2014-2021)

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Based on Michael Connelly's series of novels featuring LAPD detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, this Amazon Prime series dives deep into the dark and gritty world of police work in Los Angeles. Harry Bosch is a detective who's seen it all but still gets riled up when justice isn't served. He's got an ongoing court case, a rebellious teenage daughter, and a new murder case that reopens old wounds. The series smartly intertwines various plotlines from Connelly's books, so there's always more than one case on Bosch's plate.

10. The Outsider (2020)

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This HBO series is based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. When a young boy is found murdered, all evidence points to local baseball coach Terry Maitland. However, he has a bulletproof alibi. Enter detective Ralph Anderson and private investigator Holly Gibney, who try to get to the bottom of this contradictory case. As they dig deeper, they discover an eerie supernatural force might be at work.