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Literature / Cormoran Strike Novels

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Cormoran Strike, as portrayed on the cover of The Silkworm.
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The Cormoran Strike Novels are a series of Crime Fiction books written by J. K. Rowling under the Moustache de Plume Robert Galbraith (though this time by choice rather than Executive Meddling).

The novels focus on two main characters. Cormoran Strike, a British veteran of the war in Afghanistan turned Hardboiled Detective with a missing leg, a massive debt, a messy break-up, and no clients; and Robin Ellacott, a young just-engaged woman whose temping agency has accidentally given Robin her dream job of working for a private eye — Cormoran. Robin quickly becomes his Hypercompetent Sidekick, and together, They Solve Crime.

There are five books in the series:

The first four books in the series have been adapted into a BBC miniseries called Strike.

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This series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • An Arm and a Leg
    • Cormoran lost his left leg to an improvised explosive device while on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
    • Career of Evil's plot kicks off after someone mails a severed leg to Cormoran's office.
  • Black Comedy: A Rowling staple returns in full force in this series. In Career of Evil, Strike's use of black comedy as a coping mechanism for dealing with horror is actually a minor plot point.
  • Cluster F-Bomb / Country Matters: To a lesser degree than The Casual Vacancy, but still, this is not a series accommodating to virgin eyes.
  • Epigraph: Each book has one epigraph per chapter, with sources themed after the plot. The Silkworm quotes Elizabethan-era plays, while Career of Evil quotes lyrics from Blue Öyster Cult songs and Lethal White quotes the Henrik Ibsen play Rosmersholm. Troubled Blood returns to the Elizabethan era by quoting Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, written about Queen Elizabeth 1st herself.
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  • Gallows Humor: Cormoran and his comrades' use of it is sometimes a source of tension with Robin, with her being new to the industry. She doesn't understand how they can laugh and make jokes; they understand that they'd go nuts if they didn't.
  • Gay Best Friend: Guy Somé to Lula Landry, Joe North to Owen Quine.
  • The Ghost: Five books in and Al is the only Rokeby to actually appear so far, although they’re all referenced fairly often. Cormoran talks to his dad on the phone and texts with one of his sisters that he’s never met, Prudence, in Troubled Blood but neither has actually appeared just yet.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Ivy League for Everyone: The UK-specific version. Cormoran dropped out of Oxford, where he met Charlotte and almost all of the wealthy people in London (or so it seems); the publishing characters in The Silkworm all met at Oxford.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In The Cuckoo's Calling, the accused killer remarks to Strike that he should take up fantasy writing if his detective career doesn't work out.
  • Meaningful Name: As lampshaded by Cormoran, Robin is the perfect name for a young sidekick. One wonders if Rowling knew about female Robins like Carrie Kelly when she chose the name.
    • Cormoran is the name of a giant in Cornish folklore, and Cormoran Strike is not a small man. The name is also one letter off from "cormorant," a kind of seabird, while his surname is one letter off from “shrike”; given Robin's avian name, it's appropriate that he'd have one too.
  • Police Are Useless: To a degree. The police in the series are not so much incompetent as they are unwilling to explore other possibilities when they already have a perfectly reasonable suspect or explanation at hand.
  • Production Throwback: Strike's office is located on Charing Cross Road, the same street as the Leaky Cauldron, though, as a Muggle, he is unaware of its existence.
  • Product Placement: Doom Bar Ale, many times.
  • Rich Sibling, Poor Sibling: As his father Johnny Rokeby refused to acknowledge him, Strike grew up poor and shuffled around, although loved by his irresponsible mother Leda while Rokeby's other children, like Al, grew up in the height of luxury. Rokeby finally acknowledged Strike as an adult and wanted to bankroll Strike after he lost his leg in Afghanistan, who refused, making it an enforced trope.
  • The Stakeout: A fairly common thing that Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott do as part of their job. The realistic way in which it's presented is one of the ways the series shows the gritty, sometimes unglamorous side of detective work.
  • Start to Corpse: Variable.
    • The Cuckoo's Calling opens with the news stories on the death of Lula Landry, but it's believed to be a suicide. Cormoran Strike is hired to investigate it as murder by the killer.
    • The Silkworm opens with what is believed to be a missing persons investigation into the disappearance of the writer Owen Quine, but around the end of the first part of the novel, Strike discovers his brutally murdered body.
    • Fairly on in Career of Evil, Robin is sent a severed leg. The body is discovered later.
    • In Lethal White, Strike is visited early on by a man named Billy with mental issues who tells him that he witnessed a murder when he was a child. He is later approached by Jasper Chiswell to investigate a blackmail case and it isn't until a fair ways into the book that Chiswell is killed.
    • Not applicable for Troubled Blood, since Strike is investigating a cold case. However, Robin and Sam do find the missing woman’s body but it’s not until well past the 2/3 mark that they do so.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That:
    • Cormoran has long given up trying to correct people who mispronounce his name as "Cameron", since as a detective it makes for a more cooperative witness for him to just go with the flow. In one instance in Career of Evil, he actually gives his name as "Cameron" to a subject that he suspects wouldn't be able to grasp his real name.
    • For that matter, Strike often finds this to be a good practice in general sometimes to go with something an interview suspect puts out there if he can manage to do so believably, as they can often be more cooperative if they think they're being believed.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The first two books are set in 2010, the third in 2011, the fourth in 2012, the fifth 2013-2014.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Cormoran and Robin. Robin cannot stop herself from being jealous when Strike gets a girlfriend in Career of Evil, and she comes within an inch of running away with him at the beginning of Lethal White. Strike for his part cannot stop himself from noticing how curvy and hot Robin is, starting with the first book when he gets her a clingy green dress
  • You Know the One: While Lula Landry and Owen Quine are referenced by name after their respective books, their murderers, John Bristow and Elizabeth Tassel are only mentioned indirectly.
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