A few days ago, I tweeted about the new BBC detective series Case Histories. After ten minutes of viewing, I'd made my judgement: while the atmospheric drama might have satisfied novice viewers, it was unlikely to measure up to the fantastic novels by Kate Atkinson, on which the show is based. What the show does have going for it, however, is casting. Troubled sisters Julia and Amelia, one an extrovert actress, the other an introvert academic, perfectly match their on-page characterisations. Phil Davis similarly impresses as a bereaved father.
But the show's crowning glory is Jason Isaacs as grizzled, wounded detective Jackson Brodie. Not only does he physically fit the part, equal parts masculine and pensive, but he also brings Jackson's quiet pain to life. This is, after all, a man who seeks to find lost girls after his own sister was murdered years before. The flashbacks to his childhood in the Seventies allow a lengthy glimpse beneath his stoic exterior, explored at once in slightly more detail than they were at first in the novels.
Case Histories has its flaws, of course: DI Louise Monroe is introduced from the outset as a former colleague, as opposed to her rather different role in the books, which grated on me a little as it seemed unnecessary. The action is limited largely to Edinburgh, which I suppose makes sense for a serial drama - it gives the audience an immediate grounding, instead of following Jackson's inner monologue as he travels up and down Great Britain.
All in all, I would advise newcomers to read the books first. You'll get a deeper understanding of the characters and of how all the mysteries connect.