Friday, October 7, 2011


Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Storytelling on screen is very different to storytelling via the pages of a book, even when those involved are dealing with the same characters and plots. There are far too many examples of good and great books turned into mediocre movies or TV shows; although, to be fair, there have also been some terrific book-to-screen adaptations over the years too, bringing well-loved characters to a new audience.

But while there are plenty of examples of crime novels that have been adapted, loosely or authentically, for the big and small screen, the reverse is far less common: a crime drama on the big or small screen becoming a book series. As a general rule, TV tie-in books can be pretty mediocre, but a recent release bucks that trend magnificently. Perhaps because Neil Cross, the creator and writer of the award-winning TV series Luther, is in fact himself an acclaimed crime novelist, and has been the one to bring his onscreen characters to the page, in all their volatile and vivid glory.

Cross takes us back before the beginning with Luther: The Calling, a prequel novel that explores the events leading to DCI John Luther (played wonderfully by Idris Elba in the TV series) being on long-term leave, having lost so much professionally and personally, at the beginning of season one. Just like on screen, the hulking London copper is a riveting protagonist; a simmering volcano of a man, stumbling a tightrope between intelligence and insight and insanity. Faced with a horrific crime while juggling personal drama at work and home, he begins to devolve, crossing various lines in order to chase down a terrible predator and protect the vulnerable. Cross has created a character that is neither black nor white, but smudged shades of grey; he’s not corrupt, but is he bad – even if only to serve good?

Cross writes in crisp, vivid prose that brings his characters and world to startling life. Luther: The Calling is a good read that will interest and intrigue newbies and fans of the TV series alike (the author salts in plenty of foreshadowing, subtle and obvious, for later events). Unflinching, brutal, and brilliant.


This review was first published in the 7 October 2011 issue of NZLawyer magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.


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