Cormoran Strike

Created by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Released in April 2013 to generally favourable reviews and a giant yawn from the public, British author Robert Galbraith's first novel, The Cuckoo's Calling, introduced an intriguing new private eye to the ranks.

Big, hairy CORMORAN STRIKE lost his leg in Afganistan, and his career back home in London as a private eye isn't going too well, either. Nobody's knocking on his door and the phone isn't ringing.

Not that his personal life is any better -- his fiancée has just dumped him, and he's been reduced to sleeping in his shabby office above a bar. Robin, the young temp who's been dispatched to handle his secretarial needs describes him, rather less than charitably, as "sixteen stone... of dishevelled male" and Cormoran himself reluctantly admits that his life is "bubbling towards catastrophe."

So when a client comes a-calling, wanting Cormoran to investigate the death a few months earlier of his sister, Lula Landry, a super star model, the big lug doesn't say no. Anything to change his luck. Anything to change his life.

The police have ruled it a suicide, but her brother doesn't buy it -- and after a little poking around, neither does Cormoran.

Even better, though, is the way the battered detective faces the world. It's a refreshing change from the typical cynical headcases one usually sees -- through it all, Cormoran remains at turns compassionate and surprisingly tender, even while he's serving up a cold, hard look at society and its ills, from the obsession with celebrity to the growing chasm between the haves and have-nots.

As I said, reviews were genrally quite favourable, drawing comparisons to everyone from Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie to George Pelecanos' Spero Lucas. Me? I thought the author's style was reminiscent of Dick Francis' clipped but formal prose style.

Publisher's Weekly tagged it a "stellar debut" and Duane Swierczynski suggested it that "hardboiled crime fans are going to go cuckoo for this one. I haven't had this much fun with a detective novel in years." Similar accolades and blurbs arrived from Booklist, Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Library Journal, Mike Cooper and several others.

Not bad for the first novel in a new series. But the sales weren't exactly spectacular, and the novel looked like it was going to pretty much disappear down the drain.

Until it slipped out in July of the same year that Robert Galbraith was, in fact, the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame). You might have heard of her.

The story is that Rowling wanted the book judged on its own merits, and given the distoried, over-hyped, baying-at-the-moon reception her first mystery, A Casual Vacancy (2012) received, can you blame her?

Evidently some can. The reaction has been swift and surprisingly hostile in some quarters, particularly from the whiny wannabes who can't quite get it out of their green-tinged heads that the book received great reviews before the author's real identity was revealed.

And personally, I love the fact Rowlings decided to keep the pseudonym going. The second book in the series, The Silkworm, came out a year later.

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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