The Cuckoo’s Calling… The Verdict

Like so many others, I was desperately looking forward to seeing the BBC’s three-part adaptation of Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling’s!) The Cuckoo’s Calling, featuring the intriguing Private Investigator, Cormoran Strike, and his assistant Robin Ellacott.

Having loved all three books in the series published to date, this was a must-watch for me, so here is my verdict!

What’s it about?

Cormoran Strike is an army sergeant turned Private Investigator, who is now living in his office after leaving his girlfriend, Charlotte Campbell. The estranged son of a famous rock star, Strike is struggling financially until he asked to investigate the death of famous model Lula Landry, who fell from a balcony.

With the help of Robin, his impressive and versatile new temp, Strike uses his sharp mind and investigative techniques to track down and interview all the potential suspects during a complex case which takes many unexpected turns. Who killed Lula Landry? Or was it simply suicide, as the police had concluded?

Was it faithful to the book?

Absolutely. I was actually surprised how faithful the series was to Galbraith’s novel. Aside from a couple of slight adjustments, such as the role of Fred and Tansy Bestigui, and the weaker emphasis placed on the significance of Lula’s relationship with Guy Some, the story was more or less identical – just condensed into three compelling hours of television.

I was especially impressed with the handling of Lula’s family background, and the discovery of Jonah Agyeman, as well as the presentation of Strike himself. From the novels it is clear that Strike is not your average detective, and his personality and mannerisms are captured perfectly on screen.

Casting

If you’d excuse the pun, the BBC struck gold when casting Tom Burke to play Strike. As already discussed, he encapsulates everything the character is meant to be – shrewd, forensically attuned to the intricacies and complexities of the case, yet very calculating.

Holliday Grainger is also the ideal fit for Robin, and gives a tremendously charismatic performance. She develops a strong connection with Burke, which is important for future stories as the relationship between the two characters progresses.

Kerr Logan conveys Matthew’s (Robin’s fiancee) jealousy very nicely, while Leo Bill produces an irritably restless turn as John Bristow. Meanwhile, veteran actors Martin Shaw and Sian Phillips add some prestige.

As for Lula, she’s played by Elarica Gallagher, who looks the part. So does another former Harry Potter actress, Genevieve Gaunt, who has a minor role as Guy Some’s PA. Last time I saw her she looked much different…asking Draco Malfoy if Buckbeak the Hippogriff had caused him lasting damage…

Points for improvement

All three episodes made for great viewing, but these things would have made it even better:

  • We could have seen a little more of Robin’s vulnerable side and her desire to be an investigator like Strike. She was well realised but seemed more self-confident than in the book, rather than simply daring.
  • Fred and Tansy Bestigui should have got more coverage. Strike’s interview with Fred was cut.
  • Shanker was miscast and badly characterised compared to the book. I expected more of a streetwise ‘gangster’ type.

Verdict

Overall I think The Cuckoo’s Calling was adapted wonderfully, from the opening titles to the unravelling of the mystery of who killed Lula Landry. Strike and Robin make for just as charismatic and compelling a partnership as they do in the books, so thank you to the BBC for recreating a novel that I and so many others have grown to love.

And the good news is…we move straight on to The Silkworm next Sunday, the second novel in the series.

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