If you’re looking for an exciting, intricate, well-paced mystery and crime series, look no further than Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike. Packed with clever cases and fantastic character development, this series intrigues on both narrative and character-driven levels. It should go without saying that Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rowling, and Cormoran Strike is a fitting, grown-up evolution of the knack for mystery she nurtured with Harry Potter.
Comprised of four books so far, the Cormoran Strike series covers one case per book, which leads some readers to suggest that they need not be read in sequence. This might work if you’re only interested in cases, but if the characters’ personal stories hold any importance for you, it would be best to read the books in sequence.
The series follows its namesake private detective and ex-military police, Cormoran Strike, as he solves cases in London and struggles to keep his business afloat. Meanwhile, Robin Ellacott begins work as a temporary secretary for Strike and unearths her long-buried passion for criminal investigation. Throughout the first four books, Strike and Robin contend with crimes in the modeling industry, a publishing house, the military, and politics.
As someone who is just getting into crime and mystery books, I feel like the Cormoran Strike series has spoiled me for anything else in the genre. Galbraith strikes a perfect balance between cases and the characters’ personal growth, weaving as many clues and red herrings into the mystery as she does features and hurdles unique to each character. While it might be a staple of mysteries to include a personal narrative with the case, none of the other books I’ve read in the genre have managed to make me care about the characters as much as Galbraith has. Strike and Robin are both fully-fledged characters with enough depth and motivation to carry each weighty book in the series. Fans of gradual character progression will appreciate the slow, steady shift of Strike and Robin’s bond from colleagues to friends to partners, which grows more intense as the stakes get higher from book to book. Robin’s individual development is particularly rewarding as she grows from a secretary to a detective in her own right.
Then, of course, there are the cases. Harry Potter readers will welcome J. K. Rowling’s latest works as Galbraith, though they should proceed with caution; the Cormoran Strike mysteries are darker and grittier than those solved at Hogwarts. Murder aside, these books contain graphic violence, strong language, and mentions of sexual abuse. Each case is perfectly-paced, with clues and red herrings in abundance. Furthermore, with the exception of book four – Lethal White – each case is more intense than the last, creating a series that is near-impossible to put down. Among the four, only Lethal White stumbles, losing momentum amidst political discussion, a case that takes too much time to properly begin, and convoluted details.
Altogether, the Cormoran Strike series is an addictive, clever story with fantastic characters. I can’t fathom why readers would hesitate to explore J. K. Rowling’s work outside of Harry Potter, but if they do, they need not worry. If they can enjoy a darker, more mature story, they can get another taste of the compelling storytelling that made the Boy Who Lived such an incredible success.
P.S. For those who enjoy audiobooks, I would highly recommend the Cormoran Strike series for audio. The narrator, Robert Glenister, does an amazing job of giving each character a distinct voice, as well as a deft command of different accents. Also, for those who finish the books and are desperate for more Strike and Robin, Cinemax has adapted the first three books into a television series. The show lacks much of the charm and intrigue that make the books so gripping, but Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger make a wonderful Strike and Robin, respectively.
The score above is an average from all four books. Here are the individual ratings:
Cuckoo’s Calling: 4/5
The Silkworm: 4/5
Career of Evil: 5/5
Lethal White: 3/5