Strike: Career of Evil

It speaks volumes about our TV detectives that Cormoran Strike – abandoned by his rock star father, traumatised by the murder of his mother and left disabled by a roadside IED in Afghanistan – remains one of the more well-adjusted members of that troubled club.

Sure, our shambling hero – a man who literally sleeps on the job, bedding down in his Soho office – has his demons. But as written by “Robert Galbraith” (or JK Rowling, as we call her in the Muggle world) and played with crumpled, sleepy charm by Tom Burke, Strike feels positively ordinary – certainly when compared with the hysterical melodrama of Rellik, Marcella et al.

In the hands of Holliday Grainger (don’t be fooled by the porcelain beauty and Hollywood name – she actually went to a state comp in Didsbury), Strike's PA-turned-sidekick Robin is also refreshingly down-to-earth, resulting in that rarest of creatures: TV crimefighters you’d consider going for a drink with.

In Career of Evil, the third Strike novel to be adapted by the BBC, Rowling begins to tease out the growing sexual tension between our crumpled gumshoe and his plucky assistant – a predictable development, perhaps, but one that’s done so tentatively, it’s really rather sweet.

Less sweet is the fact the story, admirably restrained in so many ways, is still predicated on violence against women – a trait that, as discussed in this column passim, has become wearyingly prevalent in crime drama, and to which there is a growing, vocal opposition. The episode started with a teenage girl being murdered and her severed leg sent to Strike’s office in the post, while nearly every female character – including Strike’s mother and Robin herself – has at some point been a victim of sexual violence.

It’s still less lurid and sensationalist than most of its contemporaries, though, and threaded throughout with a sly, deadpan humour. The sleuthing itself is enjoyably low-key, too, with a focus on actual, old-school spade work (this week they even drove to Barrow-in-Furness, for goodness’ sake). For as long as Strike stays spiritually closer to Columbo than Luther, it’s a direct hit with me.



TV extra:

 

Benidorm

Like Mrs Brown and Brexit, the old-fashioned, popular appeal of Benidorm is baffling to many. While I started watching this 10th series opener – with its shameless Carry On-style gags about ‘a cracking pair of lungs’ and ‘a sausage in the morning’ (missus) – with a stony face, by the time Tony Hadley started singing True to a plastic swan at the world’s worst wedding reception, I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s sunny, unpretentious fun that puts the broad into Brits abroad.

 

This Country

The mockumentary set in a sleepy (going on dead) Cotswolds village proved a critical and ratings hit when it debuted last year. ‘Loads has happened,’ feckless cousins Kerry and Lee (sibling writer-stars Daisy May and Charlie Cooper) insisted as the film crew returned for a second bite. ‘You missed the duck race…’ Lee was also nursing a broken heart after being dumped by his girlfriend. ‘It’s like Blockbusters,’ he lamented. ‘I just took ’em for granted until… one day, gone.'



Published in Waitrose Weekend, March 1, 2018

(c) Waitrose Weekend