If there’s one thing I appreciate about film or TV adaptions of books I’ve enjoyed, it’s when the adaption is faithful to its source.
I can say that about the TV series C.B. Strike, currently screening on Showcase (Foxtel in Australia). I just watched this seven-part series over two very enjoyable evenings.
This adaption is based on the first three crime novels by Robert Galbraith featuring the army veteran now private investigator Cormoran Strike. I suppose I can’t let this review go further without saying that Robert Galbraith is really J.K. Rowling (no further introduction required there, I dare say!). I think I may possibly be the only book-lover on the planet who has never read a Harry Potter book or watched one of the movies. It hasn’t been a conscious decision, and it’s not that I dislike fantasy stories. I guess both just passed me by when I was interested in other books. In any event, I didn’t choose to read the Strike books because of J.K. Rowling – from what I understand about her, that would probably make her happy! I’ve read she wrote the books under a pseudonym because she didn’t want to ride on Harry Potter’s wave of success. I chose the first book in the series to read – The Cuckoo’s Calling – because I thoroughly enjoy crime and detective novels, particularly British ones, and have done since I read my first Agatha Christie novel at age 13.
I will say first up that I’ve definitely read better crime/detective novels – there was no better crime novelist than Agatha Christie, and novelists like PD James, Colin Dexter, and Ruth Rendell, are way up there as well. Having said that, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil – all of which are adapted in the TV series – are not without sophistication, and I suppose when it’s all said and done, crime itself is in reality messy and may often be committed for trite reasons. In my opinion what elevates the Strike novels are the two main characters – the taciturn, gruff Strike himself who has a deep moral core, and his bright receptionist then novice partner Robin Ellacott. The relatable Robin in particular is a character you warm to, although how such an apparently intelligent woman can end up with such a doofus of a fiancé like Matthew is a tad jarring. Matthew’s unappealing character is solidly emphasised in the TV series.
To the thin plot line of the featured crimes, the series is true. However, it doesn’t seem to matter, because it’s also accurate to the characters of Cormoran and Robin, and to their relationship: a deep, warm, affectionate friendship, with a touch of respectful sexual chemistry and a compatible and productive working relationship. They don’t share the screen nearly often enough, however it’s partly the tension from that which keeps you hooked.
It’s been a few years since I read the books, however I don’t recall Cormoran’s backstory being given the focus there that it was given in the series – his army career, how he lost his leg. If it wasn’t in the books to the level that it was on screen, then the departure there of the series was a necessary welcome one.
Would I have enjoyed the series if I hadn’t read and enjoyed the books? Possibly not, because the crimes themselves were not gripping enough and even though I’d read the books, I got a bit lost on the whodunnit aspects – although perhaps that’s the point! Leave the sleuthing to the highly-observant Cormoran! I’d already established relationships with Cormoran and Robin and so visiting them in the flesh, so to speak, made the series highly enjoyable for me, ably assisted as I said by their faithful portrayal.
I’m looking forward to the fourth novel – Lethal White – dropping this week. I’m also hoping there will be a further TV series to come. I do recommend both the books and the series to British crime fiction aficionados – perhaps just read the books first!