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J.K. Rowling’s ‘unputdownable’ novel under pen name



Last year the book world was rocked by the revelation that a former special forces soldier and first time author of the quietly reviewed The Cuckoo's Calling was none other than Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling.

Apparently not even her own publishers were aware of Robert Galbraith's true identity. Of course once the secret was out the reviews poured in, the books flew out of the shops and a furious J.K. Rowling was back in the spotlight she'd sought to avoid.

The new hero rejoiced, with Rowling's gift for unusual names, in the moniker Cormoran Strike (Cormoran being a mythical Cornish giant and Strike being the real thing). The private detective is ably assisted by beautiful blonde Robin Ellacott who dropped out of a psychology degree for reasons that are yet to be revealed and who yearns to step out from behind the secretarial desk and become a PI like her boss.

There is, as you would expect, a certain amount of tension between the two characters which they both studiously ignore. Robin is engaged to Matthew, who clearly loves her as long as she puts him first, while Strike has a chequered history with "Milady Beserko" the mad aristocratic Charlotte with whom he has had an on/off 16-year affair.

They are engaging characters who work well together and the push me/pull you tensions of their developing relationship make a strong core for the new series. There's something fresh and original about their pairing, not least because in the grand tradition of detective novels the hero must be flawed.

Strike's flaw is not alcoholism (although he can sink a few) nor misanthropy (he has far too many friends to be classed a loner) but a prosthetic leg acquired during a tour of duty in Afghanistan when the tank he was in was blown up.

When we first met Strike he was on his uppers with no clients and no assistant. A year on he is doing modestly well with a steady stream of clients and income generated by the publicity from his first case in The Cuckoo's Calling.

In this new outing he is approached by grumpy, wet Leonora Quine whose author husband Owen has disappeared shortly after submitting his latest novel. She doesn't want to involve the police as he is serially unfaithful and on a previous occasion she was made to look foolish when he turned up at a "friend's". What is a surprise is that she wants this rude, arrogant, sado-masochist back at all.

Although she has no money her case is sufficiently different from the detective's existing caseload of money-motivated philanderers and ex-wives that he takes it on.

This pacy, unputdownable book has more twists than The Cuckoo's Calling and is a lot more sophisticated.

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