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J.K. Rowling’s Strike novels come to TV with a mystery: How does the rumpled detective get the girl?

J.K. Rowling’s Strike novels come to TV with a mystery: How does the rumpled detective get the girl?
Tom Burke stars in "C.B. Strike." (Colin Hutton / Bronte / BBC / HBO)

When a supermodel falls to her death from the balcony of her fashionable London flat, it’s up to the son of a rock star to solve her murder.

Cinemax’s private investigator miniseries “C.B. Strike,” which premieres Friday, puts a sexy millennial spin on the grim British detective genre that produced feel-bad gems like “Luther” and “Happy Valley.” Think “Prime Suspect” with bleached teeth and lip gloss, as well as dialed back story lines and intensity levels.

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Like its protagonist Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke), the series, originally made for the BBC, comes from celebrity stock.

The show was adapted from J.K Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series of detective novels, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith after the success of her “Harry Potter” books. She is an executive producer on the TV miniseries.

There’s no magic but plenty of mystery in “C.B. Strike.” Riddle No. 1: Who killed the glamorous Lula Landry? No 2: What is it about Strike, who doesn’t appear all that charming, intense or remarkable on this side of the screen, that proves irresistible to all young women in his orbit?

An example from the first case adapted here, “The Cuckoo’s Calling”: While sleuthing around a fashion shoot, he meets a famous model friend of the deceased. He asks basic questions, with little expression, in as few words as possible. She’s hooked.

Later that evening in the chauffeur-driven car after their date at a hip VIP club inhabited by the fabulous crowd, she asks: “Do you mind terribly if we have a nightcap at mine?” Sure. Whatever. He’ll do her the favor.

It’s one of several leaps of faith that viewers are asked to take over the first three episodes of a miniseries that covers all three “Strike” novels, "The Cuckoo's Calling," "The Silkworm" and "Career of Evil.”

Tom Burke, right, as Cormoran Strike, who without trying--or looking up from his phone--attracts women, including Holiday Grainger's Robin Ellacott.
Tom Burke, right, as Cormoran Strike, who without trying--or looking up from his phone--attracts women, including Holiday Grainger's Robin Ellacott. (Steffan Hill)

Clues to Landry’s murder are supermodel thin, but Strike finds them as if he has hidden wizarding powers (he does not).

The suspects and leads are blindingly colorful in contrast to the rumpled, low-key detective. They include a music artist who wears furry headgear around town, so he resembles a man fox (or is it man wolf?), and a dying rich matriarch in a stately mansion whose morphine ramblings hold clues.

And Strike isn’t just the famous kid of a rock star. He’s also the son of a supermodel who died under questionable circumstances, and he’s an Oxford man, not to mention an Afghanistan war vet/ex-royal military police special investigator who uses his rarefied skills to solve crimes in present-day London. All this, and he lives in a dingy P.I. office where he self-medicates and sleeps in his clothes.

More interesting are the challenges he faces due to an injury received in Afghanistan. The loss of his left foot makes gumshoe detective work — walking up flights of stairs in a housing project where the elevator’s broken, chasing potential witnesses through the maze-like stalls of a low-rent London — a challenge. His struggle and resolve in these scenes provide a needed tension to the story and make Strike, who’s often hard to love, sympathetic.

Speaking of love…

Temp Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) joins Strike’s agency just as he takes on the Landry case. She appears to have it all going for her — she’s capable, smart and looks as if she’s stepped out of a career-woman clothing catalog each morning. But she’s at a crossroads.

Does she choose a life of convention with her pragmatic fiancé and a career in corporate HR? Or one of excitement as the underpaid assistant to a dysfunctional crime fighter? The disheveled detective is of course irresistible to her too, so you can probably guess the answer.

Viewers, however, my find him — and his cases — less interesting.

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‘C.B. Strike’

Where: Cinemax

When: 10 p.m. Friday

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)

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