I Struck Gold with Cormoran Strike!
Like millions of other people around the world, I very much enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. But for some reason, while I was aware they existed, I was a little slower to pick up her series of crime novels for adults under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, centered around private detective Cormoran Strike and his intrepid offsider Robyn Ellacott. Then a couple of friends recommended them in the strongest possible terms, so I decided to give them a go!
And I’m so glad I did!
In the last month, I’ve devoured all three books (and they’re longish!) and I’m desperate for the next installment. Unfortunately, I can’t find any news about book 4 so far, but I’ll keep looking.
The central character (and hero because really he IS a hero) is ex-army policeman Cormoran Strike. Strike is an incredibly interesting character – a decorated soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan; and the bastard son of a legendary rock star who doesn’t want anything to do with him. His mother was a super-groupie who died in suspicious circumstances of a drug overdose. So lots of room for darkness and complexity in Cormoran.
Due to an administrative mix-up at a temp agency, he ends up taking on Robyn Ellacott, a pretty and – and on the surface at least – much more together girl just down from Yorkshire and making her way in the big city. Robyn has always wanted to be a detective and proves herself surprisingly adept at this new life so, much to the disapproval of her pompous fiance Matthew, she ends up inveigling her way into a permanent spot in Cormoran’s office.
The stage is set for an intriguing series of mysteries set in London – the use of setting is masterly. We see every side of the British capital from its glamorous heights to its seediest underbelly. As someone who knows and loves the city, I get an extra layer of enjoyment from how place informs story in these books.
In book 1, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Cormoran’s detective agency is failing badly. He’s not far from closing the doors and declaring himself bankrupt, when enthusiastic, clever, resourceful Robyn lands on his doorstep (well, actually at his secretary’s desk). They become involved in investigating the death of a supermodel Lula Landry which has been declared a suicide by the police. Her half-brother is convinced this can’t be true, especially as he has information about witnesses that were either ignored or dismissed at the time of Lula’s death.
Because he desperately needs the money, Strike reluctantly takes on the case, but he’s sure the police have it right. But then small niggles of doubt emerge as he probes deeper into Lula’s short, tragic, fast-paced life. Now Strike is on a collision course with the powers-that-be–and a ruthless murderer. Ooh, high stakes!
I couldn’t put this down. It grabs you by the throat and you just keep turning those pages until you get to the exciting ending. Highly recommended.
Book 2, The Silkworm, is based around London’s literary culture, something the author knows well. We cover every level from the most successful to people on the far fringes of the publishing world. Cormoran, who thanks to the Lula Landry case, is now London’s detective of choice, receives a visit from novelist Owen Quine’s downtrodden wife and accepts what looks to be a simple missing persons case. The problem is Quine turns up not long afterward, the victim of a bizarre and ritualistic murder, and the manuscript he wrote just before his death is set to create havoc among the literati. And Strike, who is trying to mend fences after making a fool of the police in his last big case, finds himself in opposition to them again when they arrest Mrs. Quine for her husband’s killing.
One of the joys of this one is watching the relationship between Strike and Robyn change as he comes to realize just what a treasure that temp agency sent him by mistake. And both are doing their best to ignore their unspoken and unwelcome sexual attraction. Strike doesn’t want to muck up a great working relationship with Robyn, not to mention he’s getting over a long and destructive relationship of his own, and Robyn is convinced she’s still in love with the horrible Matthew, so the sexual tension just bubbles away under the surface adding a nice zing to proceedings.
Book 3, Career of Evil, is definitely the creepiest of the three. When Robyn receives a woman’s sawn-off leg in the post, all hell breaks loose at Strike’s detective agency and his short-lived financial security goes west once again. A serial killer is at work among London’s vulnerable women, and it’s pretty clear that he’s a serial killer with a grudge against Cormoran Strike. The problem is that there are three likely perpetrators from Strike’s past, and the police, smarting from previous humiliations, refuse to pay attention to Strike’s warnings. This serial killer has also worked out that Robyn is the closest thing Strike has to a girlfriend right now, and losing her would hit him hard. Given what a wonderful character she is, I spent a lot of the book in a lather of fear that one of these truly vile suspects was going to do her in. And all the time, Robyn’s wedding looms closer and closer…
If you’re looking for a modern take on the classic detective novel, you really couldn’t do better than these books. If you haven’t read them, give them a go!