Her name is Joanne Rowling, but she writes under the names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith. The seven books of the Harry Potter series have sold a total to date of more than 500 million copies, making Rowling one of the world’s bestselling and wealthiest authors. Six years after the publication of the last Harry Potter book in 2007, she struck out on a new career as an adult novelist with a London-based private eye series featuring a one-legged army veteran named Cormoran Strike and his colleague, Robin Ellacott. As of this writing, Rowling has published four books in the Cormoran Strike detective series.
This post was updated on June 8, 2021.
The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013)—J. K. Rowling writes for grownups with her debut in detective fiction
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a well-crafted detective story featuring fascinating but believable characters brought together in a complex web of circumstances surrounding the death of a London supermodel. Lula Landry was 23 when she fell to her death from the balcony of her luxurious apartment onto a snow-covered street in a fashionable district. The police and most of her family insist she committed suicide, but her brother, John Bristow, believes otherwise and hires a down-and-out private detective with a colorful past and the unlikely name of Cormoran Strike.
The Silkworm (2014)—J. K. Rowling’s unlikely second act
Strike and his eager young assistant, Robin Ellacott, are mired in the rush of routine investigative business—mostly, tracking unfaithful husbands and cheating wives—that followed their headline-grabbing success in solving the murder of a supermodel. So, when a dowdy middle-aged woman wanders into the office asking for help in finding her husband more than a week after he disappeared, Strike jumps at the chance even though he can see no prospect of getting paid for the work: it’s a relief simply to be working for someone with seemingly pure motives.
Career of Evil (2015)—J. K. Rowling proves she can write excellent adult novels
On the surface, Career of Evil is a traditional whodunit, with three chief suspects, all of them highly credible. It’s full of suspense, with twists and turns in the plot and unexpected revelations about the two leading characters. But the book morphs into a psychological thriller that demonstrates Rowling’s considerable depth of understanding of the evil that some men are capable of. The eerie spell that the novel casts is underlined by the often gruesome quotes that appear at the heading of each chapter from the songs of the band Blue Oyster Cult.
Lethal White (2018)—J. K. Rowling’s one-legged detective is on the prowl again
Lethal White is a complex mystery that runs to well over 600 pages. It takes a long time getting to resolution. But that’s time well spent. The conflicted private lives of both Strike and Ellacott, and for that matter of all the principal characters, are well worth exploring for their own sake. You’ll enjoy getting to know them. The title of this novel refers to Lethal White Syndrome, a condition that affects young white horses. “Pure white foal, seems healthy when it’s born,” one character explains, “but defective bowel. Can’t pass feces.” The condition is, apparently, fatal. But don’t hold your breath to figure out what that has to do with the plot. The explanation comes late in the story.
Troubled Blood (2020)—A forty-year-old cold case powers this doorstopper novel
So, what could justify writing a detective novel of nearly 1,000 pages? This one tops out at 945 pages, making it by far the biggest book in the Cormoran Strike detective series. At first glance, the story seems simple enough. An attractive young woman doctor goes missing one evening and is never seen again. Almost forty years later, the doctor’s daughter enlists private detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott in one last attempt to suss out what happened to her. As their investigation unfolds, first one, then several others who knew the doctor surface as possible murderers. The most likely suspect is a convicted serial killer now locked up for life. So, even though it’s a forty-year-old cold case, it’s a simple whodunit then, right? Well, no.
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