I find audio books only work for me if they are not too taxing. I want something I don’t need to flick back and forward, something that doesn’t require reading a paragraph over a few times to absorb the point, check one character’s relationship to another, or admire the imagery. So when I’m gardening slash driving slash ironing, literary fiction or challenging non-fiction is not on the menu. Instead it’s got to be an audio book that is suspenseful and absorbing enough to make whatever I’m doing pass quickly but nothing so deep that I have to concentrate too much – and of course narrated brilliantly. All hail, therefore, the fabulous detective novels in the Comoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) and read by Robert Glenister.
Featuring the flawed but loveable ex-soldier Cormoran Strike and his attractive flame-haired assistant Robin, each novel sees them solving a high-profile crime that has baffled the police. So far so predictable, but what brings these stories beyond the genre is the characterisation and (as you’d expect from this author) the plotting.
Strike is grumpy and too fond of a drink, lost a leg in Afghanistan and lives in a grimy flat above his office in Soho. Women are unaccountably drawn to him. Robin dropped out of a psychology degree and has an on-off relationship with her good looking but unsupportive accountant boyfriend. Both misfits in different ways, they approach crime solving with bravery and ingenuity, and the development of their working relationship is depicted in a nuanced and subtle way over the series.
So far there are 4 books (The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil and Lethal White), each with a complex plot that is hard to predict and featuring gore, danger, lowlifes, red herrings and blind alleys aplenty. You may have seen the BBC adaptations of two of them. My personal favourite is The Silkworm, based as it is in literary London with corrupt publishers and sex scandals at its heart and a truly shocking murder. Robert Glenister reads them all, inhabiting the characters superbly. I’m happy to have his voice in my head any time.
The Comoran Strike Series read by Robert Glenister is available as audio books on Audible or Amazon.