Book Review: The Killing III by David Hewson

In an era before VHS, DVD, and timeshift technology became available novelizations enabled fans to enjoy once again a version of their favourite films or TV series at a time that suited them. Freed from the tyranny of a broadcast landscape only offering three channels, literary adaptation offered portability and control, readers could recreate instances of celluloid and video magic within their imagination at a time or in a a place of their choosing. Invariably issued as mass market paperbacks, novelizations were stocked in large numbers by long gone high street chains. Frequently written within tight deadlines, sometimes whilst the film was still in production, and invariably based on early drafts of the screenplay, they occasionally offered up an alternative version due to the inclusion of scenes cut during the rehearsal process or discarded in the editing room.

Once a solid bedrock of the publishing industry, this literary subgenre was abandoned due to perceived redundancy. Considered to be an irrelevance when technology now enabled customers to purchase a copy of a film within months of its theatrical release it was replaced by the tie-in novel and few would have predicted a reversal of fortunes but then something unexpected happened, high profile authors were commissioned to write new novelizations. Issued in hardback and given a healthy promotional push, these fresh titles have received praise from the critical community and shifted sufficient units to convince the publishers that novelizations might have a healthy future within the crowded modern marketplace. A once derided literary form has been rehabilitated by Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of his screenplay for the TV series Neverwhere, Gareth Roberts completion of the abandoned Douglas Adams Doctor Who story Shada, and David Hewson’s translation of The Killing‘s first two seasons into a pair of novels indistinguishable, in terms of quality, from his original fiction.

Formerly a journalist, Hewson became a full time fiction writer in 2005. Best known for a series of nine novels set in and around Rome featuring the detective Nic Costa, Hewson was approached by his publisher (Pan Macmillan) to adapt The Killing into a book because of his proven ability to write strong female characters and convincing immersive word pictures of foreign locations. Written with the benefit of hindsight, Hewson visited the set of the concluding series whilst researching the first novel and has interwoven elements throughout his adaptations to make them function as a self contained literary trilogy. For the third, but not final, novel in the series the author has once again rejected the traditional novelization approach of offering a straightforward transcript and gifts readers an alternative version tailored to the strengths of a different medium.

At Nordicana 2014, Hewson gave a fascinating lecture in which he detailed at great length alterations made, stylistic conventions, industrial pressures, Lund’s psychological profile, antagonist’s role, the purpose of specific visual motifs within the TV version and how to communicate their meaning in prose. Citing the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to bolster his argument, he was unshakeable in his belief that in clinical terms Sarah Lund is a psychopath.

A newcomer to the world of Sarah Lund, et al., due to his never having seen the series prior to being tasked with adapting the screenplays, as translated copies of the shooting scripts were not available the initial research strategy involved multiple viewings of the DVD boxsets to identify individual narrative strands, character arcs and isolating plot inconsistencies which would be fixed during the writing process. An enthusiastic advocate of Scrivener, Hewson has written an e-book detailing how it can aid a writer, the package was used to map out primary, secondary, and tertiary storylines, trace the evolution of thematic material and facilitate successful foreshadowing and pay-offs.

Whilst preparing to write the first novel time was spent in Copenhagen becoming acquainted with the city’s nooks and crannys, soaking in the gloomy atmosphere of lass salubrious districts, and inspecting the series’ production facilities. Conversations with the creator, Søren Sveistrup revealed insight into Lund’s emotional make-up, the series’ raison d’etre, and confirmed that Hewson was to have a free hand in translating the material into a different medium.

Adhering to the overall story structure familiar to viewers whilst employing literary slight of hand to shuffle around scenes, create new subplots, and streamline the narrative, The Killing III delivers a composite interpretation that should please devotees of Hewson’s other novels and fans of the originating source material. Those coming to the book expecting the only added texture to be glimpses into character’s thoughts will be pleasantly surprised with the great care given to creating believable motivations and backstorys for all core characters. Cementing the air of closure present throughout the text are references to the first volume. Subsidiary figures we encountered in the première installment are mentioned in passing, Hewson’s master-stroke of replacing the political figure with Troels Hartmann creates instant tension and adds multiple layers of meaning to the investigation due to the press and Lund’s recurring doubts about his innocence based on his slippery behaviour during the probe into Nanna Birk Larsen’s murder.

A well written crime thriller filled with rewards for hardcore enthusiasts and an entirely new ending that places a definite full stop on Lund’s story. Sarah’s career may be over but we will discover how her career in law enforcement began with a prequel novel currently being written by David Hewson.

The Killing III is available from Amazon:


3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Killing III by David Hewson”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s