It's every novelist's dream to see her characters come to life onscreen, yet it's also a scary experience because you can't help wondering if the characters you gave birth to and have lived with for years will be the same people you imagined. So I was nervous when I first sat down to watch the pilot episode "See One, Do One, Teach One," which was based on the first two books in my crime series, THE SURGEON and THE APPRENTICE. The pilot was written by executive producer and writer Janet Tamaro, who developed the TV series from my books. The plot is largely from THE APPRENTICE, but Janet has put her own definite stamp on the universe of characters, strengthening the relationship between Jane and Maura, and adding in her own wonderfully wicked sense of humor. As the novelist, I watched it with a completely different set of eyes than someone seeing the story for the first time. I don't want to give away too much of the plot for those viewers who missed it, but in a word...
The first scene was utterly terrifying. Even though you see no gore, no blood, you know something terrible is happening in that living room. You can hear the fear, a fear so visceral it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Incredible acting and directing -- and then -- the smash cut! Straight to Jane and her brother Frankie playing basketball. At once you get the picture: Jane is competitive, fierce, and ready to go up against the guys. Even if it means a bloody nose. Even when her mom (who steals the scene) gives her a dressing down.
At the crime scene, a whole cast of familiar characters appears, straight out of my novels. Maura is far more elegant and better dressed than in the books, but still the cool and logical Maura Isles I imagined. Korsak is perfectly portrayed, albeit a better looking version. Barry Frost is hilarious as the earnest detective whose stomach still can't quite handle death scenes. (He throws up in the book as well!) And when Gabriel Dean walks in ... well, there's that feminine reaction I imagined would greet Agent Dean's entrance. All of it packed in within the first few minutes. I'm amazed at how much is conveyed in just one short scene: the history between Jane and Korsak, the wobbliness of Frost, the familiarity between Jane and Maura, and the silent acknowledgment between the two women that Dean is a man of, er, mutual interest.
As a book writer, I have the leisure to build plots and backstories and relationships over pages and pages. In fact, it's taken me eight books to establish the universe of Jane and Maura, with their family histories and romantic tribulations. But somehow, this scene manages to snap everything into place within minutes. I'm impressed by the efficiency and zing with which it all comes together.
Because this episode is drawn from two different books, it finds the killer Hoyt already in prison. The TV prison scene between Jane and Hoyt never appeared in the book, but this scene works to immediately convey the twisted past relationship between cop and killer. It's apparent that Jane and Hoyt have a sick history -- a history that still haunts Jane, and may in the end kill her. To tell more would give away too much...
In just 45 minutes, this episode captured the darkness of my stories. It also managed to add humor and, weirdly enough, charm. And just as in the books, it's the women who manage to save themselves, the women who use their own wits and training to figure things out. And to stand by each other.