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Investigating fiction
Access's Booked combines a love of crime novels with real forensic work


Edmonton Sun - November 11, 2005

What do you get if you combine the popularity of crime books and forensic TV shows - with an unabashed love of fiction? How about a brand new TV show called Booked?

The brainchild of local writer and director Ava Karvonen, Booked is a half-hour series that features a panel of real crime professionals who rate popular crime novels for accuracy.

"I love to read and I always wanted to start my own book club," explained Karvonen. "I just never had the time."

So Karvonen approached Access TV earlier this year about doing something with book clubs, and they sat down to figure out the best fit.

"We realized crime is one of the most popular genres, especially with the popularity of shows like CSI, and I just thought it would be great to tie it in with reading," she said.

Based in Edmonton and produced by Reel Girls Media, Booked launched in September. The series airs nationally on Access (Cable 9), Book Television (Cable 79), the Canadian Learning Television (Cable 70), Court TV (Cable 104) and - next year - Bravo, said Karvonen.

"What I like about the show is that you don't have to read the books to enjoy the show. Less than half the show is actually about deconstructing the book," said Karvonen.

Books are carefully selected, based on the type of crime being investigated, to offer viewers a variety of topics.

"In Val McDermid's book, The Torment of Others, it's a serial killer that's targeting prostitutes. Then we've got Peter Robinson's Strange Affair, where police investigation techniques are dissected," said Karvonen.

Links to the real world

"For example, in one episode the theme might be violence against women - where streetworkers have been targeted - and we'd be looking at what's been happening in Vancouver and in our own city."

Since authors often gain inspiration from true crime and cutting-edge investigation techniques, Karvonen and the crack production team at Reel Girls Media (including series producer Jennifer Snyder) wanted crime professionals to read the books.

The professionals, using their trained and experienced eyes, then debate the accuracy of the crime and forensic-related aspects portrayed in the novel.

Host Fred Yackman, a self-confessed murder-mystery addict, each week leads a team of various experts through


an in-depth deconstruction of a mystery or crime novel.

Of course, the experts don't always agree and the discussions are often entertaining and humorous, said Karvonen.

The TV show also ventures out into the field with working forensic experts, to allow viewers a better picture of actual crime investigations, she added.

Tomorrow at 6 p.m. on Access, Dashiell Hammett's classical detective novel, The Maltese Falcon - introducing the seminal Sam Spade - is grilled on Booked.

"The Maltese Falcon was the birth of the hard-boiled detective," said Karvonen. Published 75 years ago, the book is still considered one of the best crime novels.

But does it hold up under some modern-day scrutiny? Find out tomorrow as Booked also delves into the world of a real-life private investigator, Mike Straiton. Other experts for this episode include book reviewer Barry Hammond, crime writer Janice MacDonald and writer/former lawyer Geo Takach.

Karvonen believes the reason crime fiction is so popular is that the readers consider themselves investigators.

Readers like to crack the case

"What the readers always like when they're reading is to crack the case before the end of the book, and they look for the clues that the author has placed for them."

One of the perks of writing and directing Booked, says Karvonen, is meeting the many experts in criminology.

"Most of us don't even know these people are here in Edmonton: blood-splatter experts, a criminal anthropologist, a bomb expert, counter-terrorism expert ... these are people who are kind of unsung heroes who work behind the scenes and help solve and prevent crimes," said Karvonen.

Although Karvonen says it's too soon to tell how successful the show is in terms of ratings, "my understanding is that it's doing OK. We have an online component and we can tell already that we've had significant traffic on the site."

The companion website is www.booked.TV. As well as information about upcoming episodes and viewing times, the site offers a forum, a book club, contests and an e-zine.

"If people like to read crime fiction, they can go on to our forum and share opinions about the books we profile on the show or any other crime book they're read," said Karvonen.

Karvonen's recent TV credits include WildFiles.TV, Out of the West, How the Fiddle Flows, Return of the Peregrine and Stories From the Seventh Fire.