Strike: The Cuckoo's Calling - Book vs Series

The first episodes of new J.K Rowling adaptation Strike were broadcast last week, and as a fan of the books, I had no complaints. There's no shortage of crime drama on our screens and some might say another TV detective is the last thing we need. But I'm not the biggest fan of the genre and when I first read The Cuckoo's Calling my initial reaction was "when do we get to watch this?" Published in  2013 under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, J.K Rowling's first foray into crime fiction was well received even before her secret got out. And with good reason. After the disappointment that was 'The Casual Vacancy' the magic was back. Likeable main characters, good world-building (muggle London this time!) and a proper old-fashioned who-dunnit with some clever twists. Or I thought so anyway - seasoned crime readers probably guessed it more easily. But the characters were the big draw for me, and Private investigator Cormoran Strike and his temporary secretary/assistant Robin make a memorable team. The choice of lead actors was always going to make or break the TV series, but I think the casting people cracked it.

Tom Burke (The Musketeers, War and Peace) plays Strike, the one-legged ex-military policeman with an estranged rock star father and dead 'super-groupie' mother. Despite all that though, he's a down-to-earth, hardworking type and a bit down on his luck (when we first meet him he's living in his office after leaving a chaotic long-term relationship). The Strike of the books is big and bulky, not conventionally attractive with tight curly hair. I wasn't sold on Burke's casting initially, but he put on a bit of weight for the role and although he's better looking than the Cormoran in my head (and much more smiley) I'm not complaining. He's captured the character well and he's charming in a low-key sort of way. Plus, I love the smile - TV detectives are always so humourless.

'Strike: The Cuckoo's Calling' trailer

Holliday Grainger's Robin, is perfect. The actress has been around for a while (anyone else remember her in The Illustrated Mum?) and is always good, although she's mostly gone under the radar until now. And I'm pleased they got a real northerner. She's made Robin as likeable as she should be and she has great chemistry with Cormoran. No issues with the other casting either - Matthew fits the part and I especially liked  Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones, I Capture the Castle) as Tansy Bestigui. She made a lot of her small-ish role. I think  Ben Crompton (Game of Thrones, North and South) will be fun as Shanker too. 

In terms of the actual plot I thought it stuck quite close to the book, although some things were jigged around a bit. I loved the pub scene especially and the scene in the clothes shop - which were my favourite bits in the book so I'm glad they were done well. As in the book, the ending left me feeling a bit confused (but as I say, I'm not a mystery lover generally so I usually have to watch things twice before I think 'oh, I get it now') but seeing all the characters on screen the plot felt much less complicated than in the book, where I kept getting lost with all the family members and models and dress designers. I know mysteries are designed to confuse, but I appreciated the further clarity the adaptation gave me. Plus, J.K Rowling does love her weird names - Lula Landry, Deeby Mac, the Bestiguis... Matthew is about the only person who doesn't sound like he could be in a Dickens novel. 

The whole look and feel of the series isn't too dark or gritty, despite the subject matter (model plunges to her death and it might not be suicide...) which makes it a more enjoyable watch. There's a lot of light humour (which J.K Rowling is really good at - the Harry Potters  are always funnier than I remember too) and the London depicted here is vibrant and quirky rather than bleak. The next two books (The Silkworm and Career of Evil, the former of which will follow on straight after Cuckoo starting next week) may have a slightly different tone however. The books get increasingly darker and The Silkworm has a different director and different writer. Career of Evil will air over new year and, going on the book, will be slightly different again.

'Strike: The Silkworm' trailer

The only thing about the series I was unsure about (other than the scheduling - two days on the run then having to wait a week for the third episode? What's that about?) were the titles. Bit cheesy I thought, but they're starting to grow on me. I thought the whole thing was adapted well overall and any little issues I had with the actual plot were problems in the book too. (It was J.K Rowling's first attempt at mystery writing after all - unless you count the who-dunnits in the Harry Potters.) Plus, all the nice coats and scarves have made me excited for Autumn and Robin's clothes have given me all kinds of work-wear inspiration. I can't wait for the Silkworm now, despite knowing how the stories end, because just like with the books I've fallen hard for the characters and I can't wait to see more of Strike and Robin. Rowling's got a lot more books planned, so I hope they'll be on our screens for a long time yet. 

Have you read the Cormoran Strike books? What do you think of the new series?


  1. Hmm, this makes me want to try the book. I'm not big on tv, but crime/mystery novels, yes. And yes, the humor in HP is my favorite thing. A lot of people grip about how she just culled all the her fantasy from Lewis, Tolkien whatever (but they intentionally culled THEIR fantasy from other sources and developed it too), and yeah, some of that stuff isn't super original, but I feel that it has an original enough spin. That isn't really what gets me, I like that yes, but tons of people do that. Her writing quality and humor is above all the other fantasy worlds. Books without humor are like food dishes without salt.

    1. Yes, everyone goes on about her being un-original - but like you say Tolkien and C.S Lewis took so much from each other and earlier writers too, and everyone takes from myths and legends. The Strike books are good - darker than Harry Potter because they're more adult but I love the characters! Worth a try :)


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