Review: “Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling”

Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling has just been released on DVD, and it felt like the perfect time to settle down and catch up with the series. Having loved the books, I was looking forward to seeing how the story was brought to life on screen. Not having read it since it came out meant that the story was vague in my mind, and I was able to completely absorb myself in the story.

Right from the beginning, Strike feels like a classic but modern detective series. It has all the makings of a Rowling story – a good mystery, lovable, complex characters, and an engaging storyline. While the story evokes TV detectives who have come before, Strike is subtly different. The opening credits, too, are evocative and feel like they have been created with longevity in mind.

The series opens with Lula Landry, the subject of the subsequent investigation, being photographed at a party. We see her driving home, changing for an unknown encounter. We get a glimpse into her life and are able to understand this character and her world. It is striking that there is no spoken dialogue until almost six minutes in when we first meet Strike – and the first spoken words come from Charlotte yelling at Strike.

This is our first glimpse at Strike (opening titles aside) – we see him with a bleeding mouth, glowering at Robin as he saves her from being knocked down the stairs. Initially, Tom Burke didn’t seem like the right fit for Strike to me, but seeing him bring the character to life, awkward walk and everything, it’s easy to feel that Tom Burke very much is Strike and has made the role his own.

Holliday Grainger, too, is perfectly cast as Robin Ellacott, a character who walks into Strike’s world as a temp who is struggling to find a permanent job. She falls into the role of Strike’s assistant and accomplice quite easily – sorting out his office, producing coffee from nowhere, and providing Strike with some cultural knowledge, as well as stepping into other personas to gather information. Ultimately, Strike couldn’t solve the case without her since she manages to unpick a couple of details that Strike can’t. She’s an assistant for the modern world. We see her struggle with heart and head, and ultimately, she turns away from the corporate world to follow her heart and stay working for Strike, despite her fiancé’s objections.

The events in Strike are grounded in the real world, evoking a convincing setup and a believable storyline. The contrast between Strike’s and Robin’s life is well done too, and certainly sets up the world of the detective for the subsequent series. The three episodes give space to really develop Strike and his world, and we get to see both Strike and Robin away from the office. We also get a glimpse into Strike’s past life in the army, which really helps to bring the character to life.

Although I’d read the books, I was still utterly absorbed in the story (admittedly, I didn’t remember who the murderer was until 3/4 of the way through) and didn’t want it to end. Each episode ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger – frustrating for the viewer who is watching it “live,” but on DVD, this doesn’t matter since it’s easy to move straight on and digest the story in one go.

The DVD also includes a bonus featurette, where we get to see Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, J.K. Rowling, and director Michael Keillor talk about bringing Strike and his world to life. It’s well worth watching if you want to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action. My only complaint is that I wish it could have been a little bit longer…

If you’re in the UK (the DVD is region 2 only) and haven’t seen the series yet, then I highly recommend getting a copy to watch over the winter months. You won’t regret it!

Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling is available to own on DVD on November 27.

A copy of the DVD was provided for review.