If you’ve been living under a rock (or, you know, aren’t a total Harry Potter fangirl like I am), you may be wondering why I’m recommending books by someone called Robert. Rest assured, the Cormoran Strike novels are lady-authored books; Robert Galbraith is none other than my beloved JK Rowling.
Full disclosure here, I went into this series expecting to love it. As I said above, I’m a big Harry Potter fan; I’d read a shopping list if it had JKR’s name on it (which, ironically, these books don’t). And yet I really do think they stand on their own merits. All of Rowling’s hallmarks from Potterverse are here – multi-faceted characters, richly-detailed settings, and plot twists I never see coming – and they serve an adult murder mystery as well as they serve MG/YA fantasy.
The series follows Cormoran Strike, a military police officer turned private detective, and his secretary Robin Ellacott, a young graduate mistakenly sent to his office from a temp firm. Strike, struggling to make ends meet, is reluctant to employ her, but she soon shows herself to be competent and reveals a long-held ambition to work as an investigator.
At their core, these books are murder mysteries, but like so many crime novelists before her, Rowling digs deep, exploring her characters’ personalities and motivations. Even relatively minor characters are richly-drawn; everyone, from Strike to the murderer to a minor acquaintance of the victim, has their own goals, their own desires and fears, that drive their actions. At times, Rowling paints a rather grim picture of humanity; almost everyone from Lula Landry’s life, it seems, cares more about their own desires, however petty they may be, than finding who murdered their friend.
Through it all, everything is described in Rowling’s characteristic manner. I actually tend to find her descriptions a bit much, because my mind’s eye just doesn’t handle detailed descriptions very well. Even so, I wouldn’t be without it, particularly her atmospheric descriptions of setting. In her hands, London is as magical as Hogwarts.
As I stated before, I knew going into this series I’d love it because Rowling wrote it. And I think that the fact that Rowling wrote it is what’s so great about it – not Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, but Rowling, the writer with a knack for detail and evocative descriptions of character and setting. Of course, they’re one and the same – only Rowling could have written Harry Potter, and it was in writing Harry Potter that she honed these skills – but you don’t have to be a Potterhead. If you’re not a fan of boy wizards but love tales of disgruntled PIs, then I encourage you to pick up The Cuckoo’s Calling. And if you are a Harry Potter fan but prefer your murder mysteries to come with a little more magic, I still encourage you to read it, because you’ll find much of what you already love about Harry Potter in The Cuckoo’s Calling.