Last time we observed the profitability of a good old brand name, but what happens when a brand name and an immensely popular literary genre meet on the pages of an author whose strong individual characters try to steal the show? Is a true detective fiction novel only successful thanks to blood, or is there more to it?
It is easy to draw parallels between the strong female characters of Rowling’s earlier work and The Cuckoo’s Calling. As Katy Waldman also remarks, women always play an immensely important role in Rowling’s fiction. Just as Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley or Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series (just to mention some of the moral and whole-heartedly understanding females of the author), Robin Ellacott slowly but surely unfolds as an individual with dreams she is no longer questioning, dreams she dares to believe in. Constantly suffering from the lies she has to feed her husband, Matthew, about being paid by Strike to work for him a little longer after her temporal contract expired, she learns that she has to stand on her own feet and work hard if she wants to achieve something that is important for her. Though she gets no salary, she finds herself challenged for the first time and would not give up accompanying Strike. Robin trusts in Strike’s abilities as a detective, despite his rather scary physical appearance. The joy of doing something for her own pleasure finally dawns on her.
In a recent interview with Val McDermid, Rowling confirmed that she plans to continue working on Cormoran Strike novels after the 2014 release of The Silkworm, sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling (and the third book of the series, Career of Evil has just released). In The Silkworm, Strike and Robin are eager to locate the missing novelist, Owen Quine, whose disappearance is more than mysterious after the release of his scandal book, Bombyx Mori. The sequel also proves that using protagonists such as the famous Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, detective fiction writers manage to set up a twofold universe in which the central characters can develop (they can marry, engage into love affairs, disappear, return to places etc.), while another key attribute to the genre keeps renewing constantly: there is always a new mystery to solve, always a new dead body to account for. Readers might enjoy such novels thanks to their permanent characters, their fresh brain-teasers, their author, their somewhat predictable frame, or, taking the best case, the mixture of all these.
Consequently, J K Rowling did it by the book, as if she was just opening her favourite collection of recipes (in this case, novels by Agatha Christie and (her beloved) Margery Allingham), since at first she took a pinch of golden age crime atmosphere, spiced it up with modern technology and slowly cooked it until flavours pleasantly mixed. Planning more than 7 books in the Cormoran Strike novels, similarly to the success of BBC’s modernised Sherlock series, a literary topos of imperishable value appears to be confirmed over and over again. A loyal and faithful audience always welcomes high-quality reincarnations of classic cultural values.
The Cormoran Strike series by J. K. Rowling (up to 2015):