The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first Cormoran Strike whodunnit novel was published in 2013 to modest sales, decent reviews and was written by Robert Galbraith. Except that it wasn’t. As soon as it emerged that grand high witch of the literary world JK Rowling was the true author, sales obviously skyrocketed and the book went on to win the award for LA Times best crime novel. Now the BBC has taken hold of the phenomenon and adapted it for the 9 o’clock slot on Sunday nights, starting August 27th. Declan Burke got a sneak preview and joined Kay Sheehy on Arena to give us the lowdown.
Rowling’s hero, private investigator Cormoran Strike is a no-nonsense former military man who she memorably describes as “a young Beethoven who has taken to boxing.” He is played in the BBC adaptation by Tom Burke, who gets the thumbs up from Declan, albeit with the caveat that “Tom Burke has grown into this role”. His partner in crime solving is temporary secretary Robin Ellacott, played by Holliday Grainger, who soon finds she has talents far beyond admin duties.
“She is as surprised by the opportunity that he provides her with as he is surprised at how quickly that she takes to the sleuthing business. They are an unlikely pairing as we tend to see in these kinds of dramas but I think they’re very persuasive.”
Add to the mix the fact that Strike is the son of famous seventies singer Jonny Rokeby, the result of a brief dalliance with his flower power mother, and you’ve got all the ingredients for intrigue. The plot follows the story of doomed supermodel Lula Landry who is found dead on the pavement outside her London apartment. The police rule it a suicide but her brother suspects foul play.
Overall, Declan says this is a dimly-lit traditional PI tale in the vein of such classics as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. It’s not The Killing, it’s not Broadchurch, it’s a Sunday night slot and it’s a good old-school whodunnit with a decent plot and solid acting.
“It’s a more gentle if not gentile hour of detection so we’re not looking for gritty, we’re not looking for gory, we’re not looking for intense psychological drama, it’s a much more gentle storytelling than that. Slightly old-fashioned, I like that kind of thing personally. If it’s the next Scandi drama you’re looking for, Strike possibly isn’t going to push all your buttons.”
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