Cormoran Strike

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Cormoran Strike
1. The Cuckoo's Calling
2. The Silkworm
3. Career of Evil
4. Lethal White
5. Troubled Blood
AuthorJ. K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith)
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreCrime fiction, mystery, romance
PublisherSphere Books (Little, Brown and Company)
PublishedApril 2013 – present
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Audiobook
E-book
No. of books5

Cormoran Strike is a series of crime fiction novels written by British author J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The story chronicles the cases of private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Five novels in the series have so far been published. Rowling has stated that she has plans for at least another ten.[1]

The first two novels were adapted for BBC One and aired as a series in summer 2017.[2] A third series, based on the third book Career of Evil, aired as two episodes in February and March 2018.[3] A fourth series, an adaptation of Lethal White, aired as four episodes in August and September 2020.[4]

Novels[edit]

No. Title Pages Publication date ISBN
1 The Cuckoo's Calling 464 4 April 2013 978-1-4087-0399-1
2 The Silkworm 454 19 June 2014 978-1-4087-0402-8
3 Career of Evil 512 20 October 2015 978-0-7515-6227-9
4 Lethal White 656 18 September 2018 978-0-7515-7285-8
5 Troubled Blood 944 15 September 2020 978-0-3164-9893-7

Plot[edit]

In 2010, Cormoran Strike (b. Nov. 1974)—private detective, ex–Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch investigator and the illegitimate son of famous rock star Johnny Rokeby (the result of an affair with a notorious groupie)—is broke, and his birth father's business agent is calling in the loan that he gave to Strike to open his agency. Strike lost the lower half of his right leg in an attack in Afghanistan. He had previously studied at Oxford, but left in his second year to join the Army following the death of his mother.

The first novel begins with Strike being hired by John Bristow, the adopted brother of supermodel Lula Landry, who had fallen from her balcony three months previously. Bristow wants Strike to investigate his sister's supposed suicide. Strike also meets Robin Ellacott (b. 9 Oct. 1984), who has been sent to act as his temporary secretary despite the fact he can barely afford her. Robin has just become engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Matthew, with their wedding set to happen later that year. Although Strike only hires her for one week, she turns out to be much more competent (and useful) than he first expects, and they end up extending her stay.

Strike's personal life is complicated. He has just split from his long term partner and fiancée, Charlotte Campbell, who immediately marries another man. He is closest to his half-sister Lucy (his mother's second child), with whom he grew up, though he has seven other half-siblings, the other children of Rokeby and one half-brother who is the son of his mother and her last husband Jeff Whittaker. Even his relationship with Lucy is somewhat fraught, and Strike finds himself becoming closer to Robin, who has always wanted to be a detective, than he at first feels entirely comfortable with.

Near the first book's end, after solving the Landry case, and before Robin is ready to leave for a permanent position elsewhere, Strike gives her the gift of a green silk dress she had previously tried on at the Vashti boutique as part of their investigation. This dress is significant to both of them, though its importance is unspoken by each. Finally, the two decide that Robin will stay on.

The second book begins around eight months after the conclusion of book one. Strike is approached by Leonora Quine with a plea to locate her husband, notorious writer Owen Quine, who has seemingly disappeared without trace. Quine, once hailed as a literary rebel, has struggled for years to recreate the success of his original novel and has fallen out of public favour. Strike discovers that his disappearance coincides with the leak of a manuscript for his latest novel, Bombyx Mori. The London literary community considers Bombyx Mori to be unpublishable; an unpleasant mix of rape, sadomasochism, torture, necrophilia and cannibalism, the hero is eventually tricked and eaten alive by various characters who are thinly-veiled caricatures of people in Quine's life whom he considers responsible for the destruction of his career. The investigation soon takes a different, and altogether more gruesome turn when Quine is found dead. During the investigation Robin faces personal difficulties as her fiancé's mother dies, and she must make some difficult decisions about the balance between her career and her personal life.

The third novel begins with Robin receiving a package from a courier, which she discovers contains the severed right leg of a woman. The package is accompanied by a note quoting from the Blue Öyster Cult song Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl), a tattoo that Strike's mother, a famous groupie and BÖC fan, had above her crotch. Because of that link, Strike told the police that he believed that the package had been sent by someone from his own past with a grudge against him.

They work out that the sender of the leg is also responsible for a number of other brutal attacks and reaches public infamy as the Shacklewell Ripper. Strike identifies four potential suspects from his past whom he believes would be capable of such crimes, but, as the police want to concentrate on the one Strike believes to be least likely, they set out to investigate the other three. Robin informs Strike that she dropped out to university due to trauma from being raped, and the Shacklewell Ripper then stalks and seriously injures Robin in an attack. Later, Robin makes a decision while investigating one of their suspects that has profound and shocking consequences for their relationship, as Strike fires her and she then heads off to marry her fiancé Matthew. Strike sets a successful trap to catch the Shacklewell Ripper and drives all night to arrive at Robin's wedding ceremony at the end of the novel.

The fourth novel begins right at that point, as Robin learns about Strike's capture of the Ripper and that Matthew had deleted Strike's messages to her, which immediately strains their marriage. Robin accepts Strike's offer of a salaried partnership in the agency, which becomes very busy due to Strike's new-found fame, but she continues to struggle with PTSD from the rape and the attack by the Ripper. A year later, the agency is hired by a Government Minister to investigate and stop an attempted blackmail against him, although he will not tell Strike or Robin the details of his actions. They find evidence of embezzlement against one of the blackmailers, but then their client dies in an apparent suicide. One of his children then hires Strike to investigate the death, because she believes her stepmother was behind it. Robin finds Matthew cheating on her and leaves him. When Strike figures out the motive for the murder, he and Robin take their evidence to the police. Although the stepmother was indeed part of the murder plot, the actual murderer was the illegitimate son of the Minister, who had always resented his treatment by the family and also had recognised that a painting thought to be worthless by the Minister's family might actually be worth over twenty million pounds. He manages to kidnap Robin and threatens her with a revolver, but Strike and the police find them before he can kill her. After leaving Matthew, Robin temporarily moves in with detective Vanessa Ekwensi, then with Strike's friends Nick and Ilsa.

The fifth novel begins in August 2013 and ends on Robin's 30th birthday on October 9, 2014. While visiting his dying aunt Joan, Strike is approached by a woman who wants to hire Strike's firm to investigate the disappearance of her mother, Margot Bamborough, a general practitioner in London, almost 40 years previously, on 11 October 1974. As a result of their previous successes, Strike and Robin (still a salaried partner) now employ three contract investigators and an office manager. Both are dealing with their own irritations: Strike over his aunt's illness, suicide threats from his ex-fiancee Charlotte (now a married mother of two), and the attempts of his half-siblings to get him to attend a party honoring his rock star biological father Johnny Rokeby; Robin over Matthew's intransigence in their divorce, her continuing PTSD, and her unsettled personal life, brought into clearer focus by her brother and his wife having their first child. The police's principal suspect in the disappearance was a currently-incarcerated serial killer named Dennis Creed. The daughter gives them a one-year contract to try to trace down information, although, because the small firm has there other ongoing cases, it takes several months for them to run down the surviving witnesses and investigators or their children. During the year, Strike's aunt dies, Matthew grants Robin the divorce because his mistress/girlfriend becomes pregnant, and the heavy work schedule combined with a lack of communication about all of the issues contributes to many personal misunderstandings, including the termination of one of the contract investigators for repeated inappropriate behavior toward Robin. In August 2014, although the firm still has leads to pursue and has finally been able to get an appointment to interview Creed in September, the client and her wife end the contract, but Strike and Robin continue to investigate through the Creed interview -- and strike a double jackpot by both using the information from the Creed interview to find the body of one of Creed's victims and using other information from both the original police investigation and their subsequent investigation to find Margot's body and identify her killer: a nurse who worked for Margot's practice and was herself a serial-killing poisoner. The journey and the resulting avalanche of publicity forces both Strike and Robin to don disguises when in public but brings them closer together personally.

Characters[edit]

Protagonists[edit]

Cormoran Strike
First appearanceThe Cuckoo's Calling
Created byRobert Galbraith
Portrayed byTom Burke
In-universe information
GenderMale
OccupationPrivate detective
FamilyJonny Rokeby (father)
Leda Strike (mother)
Alexander 'Al' Rokeby (half-brother)
Lucy Strike (half-sister)
Jeff Whittaker (stepfather)
Six other half-siblings
At least three nephews (Lucy's sons)
Ted (uncle)
NationalityBritish
  • Cormoran Blue Strike is an ex-SIB investigator, and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan where he lost half of his leg in a bomb attack. He decides to muster out for fear of becoming brainwashed (yet misses the army occasionally), choosing instead to become a private detective. At the beginning of the series, he has few customers and is in debt, but after solving the Lula Landry suicide case becomes more recognised, both through further work and the events of the later books. His biological father, Jonny Rokeby, is a renowned rock star who had an affair with model and 'super groupie' Leda Strike, which led to Cormoran becoming his illegitimate son; Cormoran has almost no relationship to speak of with his father, apparently meeting just twice. The only one of his half-siblings to whom he is close is Lucy, daughter of his mother and another musician, though even their relationship is at times strained. His childhood was peripatetic, moving around frequently with his mother and her periodic boyfriends, but punctuated by spells of stability, particularly with his maternal aunt and uncle in Cornwall, a place to which he has a deep attachment (his name even has a Cornish origin). He is also in occasional contact with his half-brother Alexander Rokeby, who has enjoyed the unperturbed adolescence and ensuing comforts of the son of a famous rock star. Up until the start of the first novel, Cormoran had a tempestuous on-again-off-again relationship with socialite Charlotte Campbell for 16 years. Having met at Oxford University, Cormoran left shortly after the start of their liaison for the army because of the traumatic and tragic death of his mother. Charlotte helps him out financially so that he can start his detective agency. He is determined to end their relationship for good this time. At the start of the first novel, he meets Robin. Their relationship is complicated; he clearly finds her very attractive, but is extremely reluctant to admit this even to himself, trying to maintain a professional distance between them. This is a task that becomes progressively harder to fulfill as time passes, and is exacerbated by the fact that he has a number of unsatisfying relationships following his split from Charlotte. He values many of Robin's personal and professional qualities very highly. Strike is described as a physically imposing man, at least 6'3" in height, heavily built, though now carrying excess weight. He is hairy, and has dark wiry, curly hair, leading to some calling him 'pubehead'. His nose was twice broken during his military boxing career, then is broken again in the third novel. Although described as being 'not conventionally handsome', he seems to be attractive to a number of different women. He also appears to have prodigious appetites: for food—he is frequently described eating; for alcohol—he appears to be able to drink quite large amounts, and sexual—he describes himself as having an 'uninhibited libido'. He lives by a simple but strong philosophy—"do the job and do it well." When he sees a group of people protesting the war in Afghanistan, he does not resent them, but has no interest in joining, as he does not regret his time in the military. In regards to investigations, he often states that "motive is for suckers", believing it far more important and useful to establish means and opportunity.
Robin Ellacott
First appearanceThe Cuckoo's Calling
Created byRobert Galbraith
Portrayed byHolliday Grainger
In-universe information
GenderFemale
OccupationPrivate detective
NationalityBritish
  • Robin Venetia Ellacott becomes Strike's assistant, originally arriving in his office as a temporary secretary. She was only supposed to work for Strike for a week. She turns out to be much more competent than expected, and he ends up extending her stay. She is originally from Masham in North Yorkshire. She studied Psychology at university, though she dropped out after her second year. She is very intelligent and is seen to possess keen investigative skills, which by turns surprise, intrigue and impress Strike. She is an expert driver, having taking a course in defensive driving, and impresses Strike, who is normally prejudiced against being driven by any woman due to bad experiences with three. Between the events of the second and third novels, Strike pays for her to take a criminal investigation course, which she apparently passes with distinction. After that, she progresses to becoming Strike's partner rather than his assistant. She plans to marry her boyfriend Matthew Cunliffe, who has proposed to her as the first novel begins. She initially describes Strike as being extremely unattractive, even calling him 'pubehead'. There are, however, increasing signs as time goes on that she no longer feels quite this way, and her increasing closeness to Strike causes friction in her relationship with her fiancé. During the third novel, it is revealed that as a student, she was raped and left for dead by an attacker, the aftermath of which is the reason she dropped out of university. This at least partly explains why she is so unwilling to stop the investigation of Noel Brockbank, one of Strike's suspects in Career of Evil, when she discovers that he not only has a history of abusing children, but has almost certainly been sexually abusing his current girlfriend's young daughter.

Secondary characters[edit]

  • Matthew Cunliffe is Robin's fiancé, and also comes from Masham. He works as an accountant, and has been Robin's only serious boyfriend. He proposes to Robin at the beginning of the first novel. He does not approve of her working for Strike, Initially he considers Strike to be a shady character, but later his objections take other, more personal forms. Robin briefly splits from Matthew during the events of the third novel after finding out that he cheated on her with his friend, Sarah Shadlock, while at university. However, the couple reconcile, with Robin and Matthew marrying at the novel's conclusion. At the reception, Robin learns that he deleted Strike's post-firing texts to her, which causes a huge fight that disrupts their reception, although they ultimately decide to stay together. However, during the fourth novel, Robin learns that Matthew and Sarah are continuing their affair, which leads her to separate from Matthew and seek a divorce.
  • Lucy Strike is Strike's younger half-sister on his mother's side. She craves suburban normality and family stability to make up for their peripatetic childhood, and is seen by Strike (perhaps a little unfairly) as somewhat judgemental. Strike attends her son's birthday party in the first novel. During the second novel, she hosts a birthday meal for her half-brother. In the fourth novel, Strike has to accompany her middle son to the hospital, as she and her husband are overseas. Though he admits to being extremely fond of her, their relationship is sometimes strained. She disagrees with certain of his life choices, believing that he should have settled down, married, and had children.
  • Jonny Rokeby is Strike's famous pop-star father, who has met his son only twice in his lifetime. He only accepted his paternity following a DNA test. He has six other children from three marriages (the first two ended in divorce, one supposedly as a result of Strike's conception) and a relationship with an actress. Throughout most of The Cuckoo's Calling, Strike is in debt to him for a loan and he has hired an agent to try to collect on it.
  • Leda Strike is Strike's late mother, a famous model and a rockstar 'supergroupie', including Jonny Rokeby. She died of a heroin overdose when Strike was 20. Strike has always suspected his stepfather, Jeff Whittaker, had something to do with her death, though almost nobody else seems to agree. Leda is also the mother of Lucy (by another famous musician) and a son fathered by Whittaker.
  • Charlotte Campbell (Ross) is Strike's ex-fiancée. Wealthy and mercurial, she and Strike had a tempestuous on-off relationship for fifteen years after first meeting in Oxford, but Strike ends their engagement for good as the events of the first novel begin. She walks out of his life literally at the moment Robin walks into it. She allegedly lied to Strike about being pregnant with his child. She later marries her pre-Strike Oxford boyfriend, Jago Ross, and soon become pregnant with twins, although she remains interested in Strike, especially after he becomes famous. Strike considers her to be a compulsive liar with an insatiable need for drama.
  • Eric Wardle is a detective initially involved in the Lula Landry case. In the third novel, he is the officer in charge of the case of the severed leg. He has grown somewhat close to Strike, continually joshing and sharing information with him. He has to leave the police investigation during the third novel, following the unexpected death of his brother in a hit and run incident, and is replaced by Roy Carver. In the fourth novel, he serves as Strike's main contact to the police.
  • Roy Carver is the detective initially in charge of the Landry case in the first novel, and a colleague of Eric Wardle. As a result of Strike's investigation, Carver's suicide conclusion is discredited, resulting in an extremely antagonistic relationship with Strike. In the third novel, he is Wardle's replacement in the police investigation of the so-called "Ripper" attacks. He is extremely hostile towards Strike, warning him not to pursue the case further.
  • Richard Anstis – a detective with the Metropolitan Police, and TA officer who was present at the incident that cost Strike his leg. Strike is in fact responsible for saving Anstis' life during that incident, for which Antis is always aware and grateful, even though their professional relationship is sometimes placed under great strain. Strike considers him a capable investigator, but lacking in imagination. He pulls rank to take the lead on the case in the second novel.
  • Linda Ellacott is Robin's mother, who appears in the second and third novels. She is a generally kind and supportive woman, who, Strike notes, her daughter physically resembles. She visits London to care for her daughter, supporting her decision to take a break in her relationship with Matthew.
  • Alexander 'Al' Rokeby – Strike's half-brother on his father's side, and the only member of his father's side of the family with whom he has any discernible contact. He is friendly to Strike and willing to use his star power to help Strike in his investigations. He is well-educated and achieved excellent grades in his International Baccalaureate.
  • Shanker – Strike's friend from the times he was living with his mother Leda who picked up Shanker lying bleeding in the gutter after a knife attack. Shanker still leads a life in London's criminal underbelly where he has valuable contacts for Strike. Strike and Shanker, though leading very different lives, are very loyal to each other.
  • Nick and Ilsa Herbert are Strike's school friends who appear beginning in the second novel. The couple met due to their mutual friendship with Strike. Nick is a gastroenterologist and the son of a taxi driver. Ilsa is a lawyer who helps Leonora Quine. Strike sometimes crashes round their house, with their spare room, when he wants to avoid unwanted attention from the media. After her marriage breaks up, Robin uses their spare room while flat-hunting.

Television adaptation[edit]

In December 2014, it was announced that the novel series would be adapted for television by the BBC. In September 2016, Tom Burke was confirmed as having been cast as Cormoran Strike.[5] Holliday Grainger was cast as Robin Ellacott later in November.[6] Filming of seven hour-long episodes of the Cormoran Strike television series began in November 2016.[7] The series was picked up by HBO for distribution in the United States and Canada,[8] but ended up on HBO's sibling channel Cinemax. It premiered on 27 August 2017 on BBC.[9]

References[edit]