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NOVELS COME TO SMALL SCREEN

by Benjamin Carr

For true escapism, sometimes you cannot beat a good novel. There is a magic to reading a good story with solid characters, getting caught up in mystery and suspense. Some very, very solid literary adaptations have recently been released, and a familiar hero from books and film is about to hit the small screen for the first time. Taken off the shelves, these stories make for excellent viewing.

TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN (Amazon)

The character Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst often thrown into treacherous international conspiracies, has been featured in multiple films before, including The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games. He has been played by four different actors onscreen: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine. And now John Krasinski, the star of The Office and A Quiet Place, is playing Ryan in a new Amazon series.

Created by late author Tom Clancy, who specialized in military thrillers with shocking twists, the new series Jack Ryan takes the character out of his old Cold War novels and puts him squarely in our current political climate. Investigating some financial transactions from a terrorist cell, Ryan discovers that a new attack is imminent. Surrounded by threats and working rogue, Ryan must use his brains - and his action prowess - to save the world.

The creators of the show, Graham Roland and Lost alum Carlton Cuse, have imagined the series as one season-long movie. It co-stars The Wire's Wendell Pierce and Abbie Cornish.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY (Netflix)

This Netflix original film, directed by Four Weddings and a Funeral veteran Mike Newell, is based upon the historical romance novel of the same quirky name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It reunites Lily James with her Downton Abbey co-stars Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay. And it also stars the incredibly handsome Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) and Glen Powell (Scream Queens) as two suitors vying for her affection.

Set in 1946, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society centers on London author Juliet Ashton, who begins to research a unique book club that began on the isle of Guernsey in the English Channel during its Nazi occupation. Formed by chance by a group of people who were illegally roasting a pig, the group soon discovered a love for reading and a weekly chance to escape the Nazi horror around them. Elizabeth, one of the founding members and the mother to a young girl, has gone missing, and Juliet begins to research what exactly happened to her. In the meantime, she begins to develop feelings for a pig farmer named Dawsey, a situation complicated by Juliet's recent engagement.

The film is many things. It's a charming fish-out-of-water story, an effective romance, an interesting look at one of the forgotten chapters of World War II and a tribute to the families we create for ourselves. It's really heartwarming and sweet.

ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE (Amazon)

Based upon one of her favorite later works, Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence is a three-episode miniseries about a 1950s family murder at a British country estate. It stars the great Bill Nighy, Matthew Goode and Star Trek's Alice Eve. This is a fun, beautifully photographed and well-acted mystery with excellent twists and legitimate shocks, the sort that Christie did better than anyone.

Rachel (Anna Chancellor) was murdered on Christmas Eve 1956, and suspicion immediately fell upon her ne'er-do-well adopted son Jack, who was arrested and charged in spite of professing that he had hitched a ride prior to the killing. He was killed in jail shortly thereafter before the case was ever brought to trial. And the patriarch Leo (Nighy) and all of Rachel's adopted children have struggled to move on from the tragedy. Everyone in the family is also dealing with horrible secrets.

On the eve of Leo's wedding to his buxom secretary Gwenda (played by Eve, channeling Ann-Margret), a mysterious man named Dr. Arthur Calgary (Luke Treadaway) shows up claiming to be Jack's alibi, the driver of the car. Claiming he knows Jack is innocent, the family is undone because, if Jack wasn't the killer, one of them was.

Far better than the recent film version of her classic Murder on the Orient Express, Ordeal by Innocence is great fun that will keep you guessing right until the end, just like the best books do.

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