My recollection of childhood is, for the most part, fairly hazy, but one memory that, for reasons unknown to anybody, remains diamond sharp in my mind is that of my nine-year-old self remonstrating with my mum in a bookshop because she refused to buy me the novelisation of Baby’s Day Out. For anyone who wasn’t a nine-year-old idiot in 1994, or the parent of a nine-year-old idiot in 1994, Baby’s Day Out is a slapstick crime caper in which an eerily capable baby outwits his would-be kidnappers in a hilarious romp around the big city. That synopsis alone should have been sufficient argument against buying it, but my mum’s other very valid point was: you’ve just watched the film, why would you want to read it?
What exactly is the point of novelisations? It’s not like going back to the original novel after watching an adaptation; novelisations are faithful to their sources. It’s more like watching a football match and then going back and reading the entire BBC Sport live text commentary afterwards. There aren’t going to be any surprises. There is the idea of being able to return at leisure to a world you know and love - endless Star Wars novels, for instance, allow just that. But if that’s the point, then novelisations would be on their way out: a nine-year-old today who, by scrolling through the “You liked Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House” section on their Netflix account, had just discovered the joys of Baby’s Day Out, could in seconds be drowning in the huge quantities of BDO fanfic that I imagine someone somewhere must have written.
But they aren’t dying out; there’s a whole swathe of television crime drama being turned faithfully into novels. All three series of The Killing have been novelised, and the popularity of ITV’s Broadchurch is about to be cashed in on too. If you haven’t already seen the programme, I can see the attraction - David Hewson, who writes The Killing novelisations, is a well respected crime writer, and his efforts have been well received - but most people reading these books know exactly where they’re heading. What’s the point in a whodunnit if you know who did it?
Here's our pick of the latest thrillers that will keep you guessing to the end.