JK Rowling's crime drama C.B. Strike is coming to New Zealand television

by Fiona Rae / 07 June, 2018
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C.B. Strike.

After JK Rowling was revealed as the creator of Cormoran Strike, it was only a matter of time before the character was made into a TV show.

It’s tough being the most famous author on the planet. Is it any wonder that when JK Rowling decided she would like to have a bash at crime writing, she decided to write under a pseudonym?

Her first book after the Harry Potter series, The Casual Vacancy, was subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Could she write adult fiction? Not very well, according to some critics.

However, the first novel in her Cormoran Strike series was received rather better. Even before reviewers knew that “Robert Galbraith” was really Rowling, the book sold a respectable 1500 copies in print and another 7000 in e-book and audiobook formats. Then in 2013 came the reveal and Rowling was No 1 again.

She is now three books in, with reported plans for another 10. It was a dead cert that there would be a television adaptation and it arrives here this week: C.B. Strike (SoHo, Sky 010, Thursday, 8.30pm) comprises seven episodes that bring to life The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil.

In many ways, the character of Cormoran Strike is a detective-novel cliché: a dishevelled, hard-drinking smoker whose personal life is as messy as his Soho office.

However, Tom Burke (War & Peace) gives him a rough charm to go with his incisive mind and Rowling has fleshed him out with a simultaneously glamorous and tragic background. His father is a famous rock star whom he has only met twice, and his mother was a hippie/model/groupie who named him after a Cornish giant.

There is trauma surrounding her death, although this is not explained. Strike is also a former soldier who lost the lower half of his leg to an improvised bomb in Afghanistan.

As the first story begins, Strike is on his uppers, in debt and about to lose his business. However, into his life steps sunny temp Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger), who makes immediate improvements and inadvertently finds her calling as a private investigator. There is a hint of sexual tension between Strike and Robin, which is as it should be.

The series has a nice, grainy, slightly noir look, but doesn’t overdo it. The bustle and messiness of Soho fit with Strike’s gumshoe persona and, thankfully, there is a wry humour to the show that is perhaps Rowling having her own kind of fun: the first story is set among the super-famous of the fashion industry, the second in the backbiting publishing world.

This article was first published in the June 2, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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