About two years ago now I read the first Cormoran Strike book, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling,’ written by JK Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I remember that I saved it up for a business trip to Birmingham where I spent the days in a cold, dusty paper mill, counting boxes (don’t even ask). It was freezing and every night I came back, ran a hot bubble bath, poured myself a diet coke and got lost in the world of Cormoran and Robin and Lula Landry. It was excellent – I loved it, and not just because it was by JK Rowling. It was a truly brilliant mystery, with a touch of the cosiness Rowling brings to Harry Potter but an edginess that she uses in the Casual Vacancy. Most of all, it was fun. The sequels weren’t out yet, though, so I vowed to buy them when they were, told everybody the book was great, then promptly forgot about it.
Until recently when Rosie mentioned on her Instagram that she was ploughing through the series as she anticipated the birth of her new baby (she's had her now, btw. GORGEOUS). Immediately I looked them up and realised the next two books in the series had come out (I say the next two, because Rowling promises this isn’t the end, and I hope it isn’t!) This time, I saved the books up for my wedding anniversary weekend in the countryside. I reread The Cuckoo’s Calling, then devoured the sequels – The Silkworm and Career of Evil.
These books are so brilliant, I can’t even put it into words without just printing them out here, holding your nose to the screen and forcing you to read them. If you love early-days Harry Potter, you’ll probably love the first book most of all – the second two are definitely gorier and grittier, more reminiscent of the later Potter books perhaps, when you look around the room at 3am and realise you actually don’t want Harry and Dumbledore to cross the river of zombies, they should go back to the cosy Gryffindor common room, thank you very much. As I said, there’s something of the Casual Vacancy here too, mostly in the incredibly deft way Rowling weaves real life characters out of thin air – conjuring up perfect images of lap-dancer mothers, flamboyant clothes designers, petulant middle aged women and more, a whole cast of excellently written, believable figures, propped up by the brilliant Cormoran and Robin, of which two more likeable protagonists I am yet to find. I also, particularly, loved Rowling’s intricate descriptions of real life places – I could have been in the Old Blue Last, in Shoreditch, or walking through a rundown Scottish town. In the same way that she creates magical castles and brings them to life, Rowling is able to describe reality in a way that causes it to almost float before your eyes. It’s an incredible skill.
But what I really like about the detective stories is that they’re good. You honestly don’t know what’s going to happen next. I didn’t guess the ‘twist’, if you could call it that (it’s not, in truth, as clichéd as that) in any of the three books and I never knew what was going to happen next. It made me read vociferously for about three days straight, swallowing the stories whole in a need to know what happens next, leaving you with that slightly disorientated feeling when you look up and realise you’re in your own living room and four hours have somehow passed and you are going to be very tired tomorrow. That feeling may be one of my favourite feelings in the world. Of course Harry Potter gave me that, but to have it again, as an adult, with an adult series that I hope is ongoing, is a true pleasure. To have it from the same author is no more than astounding.
I don’t make any secret on my blog or on Twitter that I love JK Rowling, and maybe you think I would’ve loved anything she wrote, and maybe I would – but you can’t fake enjoyment such as this. I hope Cormoran and Robin detect again, very soon, but in the meantime, Rowling/Galbraith – thank you for your words!