Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym for JK Rowling (Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy), I’m aware this confession will get me lynched – I’m not a fan of Harry Potter (books or the films) but I do adore these books. The Strike series has been turned into a highly successful BBC show starring Tom Burke (The Musketeers, War & Peace) as Cormoran Strike and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias, The Capture) as Robin Ellacott. I personally think the casting is near perfect. The Lethal White installment is due to air this Sunday.
The Cuckoo’s Calling After having the final argument of his tumultuous relationship with Charlotte Campbell, his gorgeous on-off-again girlfriend, Strike hurries after her, where newly engaged Robin Ellacott is just arriving having mistakenly been sent as a temp for the week. After the first meeting-slash-collision, Strike and Robin are settling into the Denmark Street Office, when John Bristow arrives asking Strike to investigate the death of his adopted sister, Lula Landry an A-list supermodel who was thought to have committed suicide by jumping off her Mayfair balcony.
“Of the three people who Strike thought might present themselves at his office this evening, it was Bristow he hoped would make it there first. If the police wanted concrete evidence of murder, his client alone (though he might not realise it) could provide it. If either Tony Landry or Alison Cresswell turned up at his offices, I’ll just have to… then Strike snorted a little in empty office, because the expression that had occurred to him was ‘think on my feet’. But six o’clock came, and then half part, and nobody rang the bell.”
It turns out that there are several players involved this action packed drama.
- Evan Duffield is Lula’s drug taking ex-boyfriend, who frequently wears a Wolf’s head, as part of his rock star persona. He argued and partied with Lula and Ciara Porter, a fellow model, in the nightclub Uzi the night of Lula’s death.
- John Bristow is Lula’s lawyer, as well as her adopted older brother. He saw Lula on the day of her death to discuss her modelling contracts.
- Film Producer, Freddie Bestigui and his wife Tansy, live in the same apartment building as Lula. They apparently heard shouting between Lula and a Man in their sound proof flat two floor below.
- Deeby Mac is a famous rapper who was attracted to Lula, so much so he wrote several songs about her and rented the apartment below her penthouse, for the duration of his UK tour.
- Tony Landy is Lula and John’s maternal uncle, who tries to hinder Strike’s investigation into Lula’s death as he believes John is delusional and that Strike could be taking advantage. Tony is also Mr & Mrs Bestigui’s lawyer, impeding Strike’s ability to speak with them.
The Silkworm in this second installment Strike and Robin are asked to investigate the disappearance of failing author Owen Quine, by Leonora his long-suffering wife, as their disabled daughter Dodo is missing him. Upon discovering Quine’s mutilated body, Strike soon links his murder to Bombyx Mori, Quine’s unpublished novel which heavily reflects his own complicated life. Robin is frustrated that Strike seems content with simply keeping her as an assistant, rather than championing her childhood desire to be a detective in her own right.
“‘It’s not over,’ she said, winding her scarf around her neck as she prepared to depart. ‘We’ll prove it wasn’t her.’ She had once before used the plural pronoun when Strike’s faith in himself had been at a low ebb. He appreciated the moral support, but a feeling of impotence was swamping his thought processes. Strike hated paddling on the periphery of the case, forced to watch as others dived for clues, leads and information.”
- Leonora Quine is quickly the Met’s prime suspect, as they suspect her of having means and motive, as she is seen as the cheated on wife.
- Kathryn Kent is Quine’s extra-martial girlfriend, who writes ‘fantasy erotica’ online. Quine also mentors Kathryn and she refers to him as ‘The Famous Writer’ in her blog posts.
- Elizabeth Tassel is Quine’s literacy agent, who has a long history with both Quine and Michael Fancourt. She is a failed writer herself, this causes her to be a foul-tempered bully.
- Michael Fancourt is award-winning author who has had much more success than Quine. However their sour relationship is mainly due to the cruel parody that Quine is believed to have wrote about Ellie Fancourt’s only novel, which caused her to commit suicide.
- Daniel Chard publishes Owen Quine’s novels. He contacts Strike asking to speak to him at his home in Devon, following Quine’s death.
Career of Evil – A female severed leg is sent to Robin meaning the latest case is more personal than ever, as it appears she could be a potential target. Strike suspects that it is linked not only to his own amputation but also his past due to the presence of lyrics from his deceased mother, Leda’s favourite song. Robin’s fiancée, Matthew continues to disapprove of her work as a full time investigator, especially as their wedding day is nearing.
“Strike had not forgotten that Robin had hitherto been an almost unqualified asset. She was able to persuade recalcitrant witnesses to speak when his own size and naturally intimidating features inclined them to refuse. Her charm and ease of manner had allayed suspicion, opened doors, smoothed Strike’s path a hundred times. He knew he owed her; he simply wished that, right now, she would bow out of the way, stay hidden until they had caught the sender of the severed leg.”
Strike can think of several suspects
- Donald Laing was an army private based in Cyprus, where he tortured his wife Rhona and physically abused their baby. Strike’s work with SIB helped get Laing a 16 year conviction, of which he served 10 years.
- Noel Brockbank is also ex-army, Strike previously investigated him following allegations of sexual assault against Brittany Brockbank, his step-daughter. Brockbank resisted arrest and attacked Strike with a glass beer bottle, prompting him to retaliate which caused Brockbank to have a severe seizure. Brockbank blames Strike for him losing his family.
- Terence “Digger” Malley is a career criminal who ran a large drug ring, Strike testified against him in court where he was convicted. Digger also has a habit of cutting off body parts and sending them to his enemies.
- Jeff Whittaker was married to Leda, Strike’s mother when she died of a drug-overdose. He was charged with her murder but found Not Guilty at his trial. Whittaker is a crackhead, who is frequently abusive toward his younger girlfriends.
Possible spoilers for people who have only seen the TV show.
Lethal White is set a year after Robin’s wedding day and her return to work with Strike, the business is booming with former soldier, Sam Barclay and Andy Hutchins an ex-policeman working as semi-permanent employees. During the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics, the Minister for Culture, Jasper Chiswell is being blackmailed, possibly by a fellow MP, Della and her husband, Geraint. In order to gain information Robin is sent into the House of Parliament as ‘an intern’ causing her to become entangled in the Chiswell family drama, from Izzy, to Rapheal the half-brother whose just left prison and not forgetting Kiranva, Jasper’s jealous wife. Unfortunately Jasper Chiswell is unexpectedly found died by Robin, at his London home. One day a psychotic and mentally ill young man, named Billy arrives at Strike’s Denmark Street Office claiming to have witnessed the murder of a child when he was younger. It turns out Billy and his older brother Jimmy Knight, grew up on the outskirts of the Chiswell estate.
“It was a relief to be taking a hurt and bewildered Matthew home, rather than the man she usually lived with, and her sympathy and support had won her a couple of days’ ceasefire at home. Robin was not about to jeopardise their truce by telling Matthew what she was planning this morning to throw the still-lurking journalist off her trail. She couldn’t afford to be followed to a meeting with a forensic pathologist, especially as Oliver, according to Vanessa, had needed a great deal of persuasion to meet Strike and Robin in the first place.”
- Jimmy Knight is blackmailing Jasper Chiswell for £40,000. He is a left-wing activist and organizer of CORE (a group that opposes the Olympics). Jimmy is Billy’s older brother and only relative.
- Geraint Winn is the husband of Della Winn, Minister for Sport. He is also blackmailing Jasper Chiswell, as he wishes to see him removed from political office.
- Izzy Chiswell runs her father’s office in Parliament and is privy to some, but not all of his secrets, such as the blackmail. However she finds her father unloving and very difficult to work for. She is adamant that her father was murder and Izzy suspects her step-mother Kinvara.
- Raphael “Raff” Chiswell is Jasper Chiswell’s only surviving son, a product of his affair with an Italian journalist. Raff is a constant disappointment to his father (especially when compared with heroic Freddie), he dropped out of Uni, crashed his car while taking ecstasy, killing a young mother. After being released from prison, he gets sacked from his art gallery job, causing Raff to end up working in his father’s parliamentary office.
- Kinvara Hanratty is Jasper Chiswell’s much younger second wife. She frequently claims that men come into the woods at night on the Chiswell Estate, disturbing her horses. Her stepchildren believe Kinvara to be a hysterical, gold digger and instantly suspect her of being involved in Jasper’s death.
Troubled Blood is the hotly anticipated fifth installment of the Strike series, which is due to be published in the UK, on 15th September. It features a 40 year old cold case, from Cormoran’s home town in Cornwall.
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