Striking Gold

In the past 12 months I have taken in a wide range of literature, from modern classics to Booker Prize winners; from Gothic ghost stories to play scripts. It has been a year of discovery for someone who had previously struggled to wriggle free of the grip of non-fiction and its fountain of knowledge.

But the books which have absorbed me most during this period of time are the Cormoran Strike crime novels, all three of which I received as a bumper Christmas gift. Written by the phenomenon that is J.K. Rowling under her now thinly-veiled pseudonym Robert Galbraith, they contain all the  ingredients for a superb crime story.

Opening The Cuckoo’s Calling for the first time back in May, it took just moments for me to be taken in and connect with it. The familiarity of Rowling’s vivid description of the setting, and the scene outside the luxury apartment block from which famous model Lula Landry fell to her death acted as the most fascinating prelude to a highly complex mystery.

And then we have Cormoran Strike himself, the private detective son of a well-known music star and a so-called super-groupie, who had his leg blown off while serving in the army. Just who is he? And can he outdo the police and uncover the truth behind such a meticulous crime?

Early on he employs former psychology student Robin as his temporary secretary, but there’s also much more to her than meets the eye. Her efficiency and enthusiasm for the job eventually leads her to become Strike’s assistant, and as the books progress the relationship between the two becomes more personal despite their attempts to maintain a professional distance, while Robin’s fiancee Matthew lurks in the background with no shortage of suspicion.

Even as we move into the third novel, Career Of Evil, we still don’t feel as if we really know Strike as he embarks on a personal mission to track down a serial killer who bears a vicious grudge against him. This all adds to the intrigue, and makes him stand out among the many detectives the currently exist in modern fiction.

Unsurprisingly, the three novels to date are to be adapted into a major BBC drama series, which will be separated into seven hour-long episodes. And following lengthy speculation, we have finally found out who will portray Strike and Robin, the unlikely yet captivating double act.

Both actors have made their name in period drama. Tom Burke starred in the recent BBC adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and he certainly has the right kind of physique for Strike, who is described in the books as a huge – and hairy – imposing figure. Meanwhile, the role of Robin will go to the talented Holliday Grainger, who has featured in dramatisations of many a classic novel including Great ExpectationsJane Eyre, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

While it may disappoint fanciful fans who yearned for Emma Watson to portray Robin, for me Burke and Grainger are excellent choices as they seem to fit the profile of their characters. The announcement of Grainger rather played second fiddle to talk of Johnny Depp appearing in the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them series of films, but it really adds to the anticipation ahead of what should be seven weeks of unmissable television.

The novels may contain some unsavoury moments – some of the crimes are horrifyingly gruesome, some of the language is coarse, but where the Cormoran Strike series succeeds is the complexity of the crime. Among avid readers of fiction there will always be an appetite for a thought-provoking mystery, and Rowling had me – and many others I’m sure – on tenterhooks trying to piece together the subtle clues that point to the solution.

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