C.B. Strike: Private Investigator to Detective Agency

Posted on 10 Jan 2024

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

When Robin arrives at the agency, the same day Strike will become involved in the investigations into the supposed suicide of model Lula Landry, he is homeless and suffering the effects of an eighteen-month spiral into financial ruin. While being hounded for repayments on a loan by his father’s lawyer, and chasing three clients for payment of their bills, he fantasises about cruder methods of debt collection, involving a baseball bat. Many people who know his heritage refuse to accept the fact Strike is hard up. However, Strike insisted on taking the money from his rock star father as a loan rather than a gift, and is strict about paying his way. Robin understands the situation at once though.

Luckily, the new client Robin ushers in does not quibble when Strike asks for an exorbitant rate, or argue about giving him a month’s fee in advance, some of it in the very welcome form of a stack of fifty pound notes. Even with Bristow as a client though, there is no way, that he can afford to pay Robin to stay on. She has been efficient and committed, even sacrificing her nails to replace the scrappy piece of paper by the doorbell with his neatly typed name in the clear plastic holder. He also values her companionship, and sees her talent for improvisation and getting information from witnesses during their visit to the fancy boutique, Vashti’s.

It is Robin who comes up with the answer, first by cutting out the temping agency who mistakenly sent her to Strike originally, then by offering to work for him at a rate he can, just about, afford. It’s not what she would earn elsewhere, but Strike is delighted to have her. At least she has the pleasure of telling his father’s lawyer as the case concludes that Cormoran has sent a cheque to cover the outstanding payments on his loan, with a bit extra.

The Silkworm

The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

The fame Strike has earned from the Lula Landry case has attracted a lot more work for the agency, but money is still tight. He knows he’s not paying Robin enough and is eager to clear his debt to his father as quickly as possible. Strike can’t help feeling a pang of regret after he throws out an unpleasant, rich client in favour of Leonora Quine, who can offer no more than a handful of change when she comes looking for help in her search for her missing husband.

The twisting mystery of the man and his scandalous manuscript keep Strike working even when payment seems unlikely, however. Still, money is on Strike’s mind as he discovers the baroque truth behind Owen’s disappearance. He damages his leg trying to avoid taking taxis and is relieved that famous novelist Michael Fancourt is not hungry when they meet. He cannot afford to buy anyone else lunch.

Career of Evil

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith

The arrival of a severed human leg at the agency means difficult times for the partners. Word of the grisly delivery has the effect of a wrecking ball on the business he has been working so hard to build up. At best, he thinks, new clients might assume that he and Robin have troubles enough of their own; at worst, that they have got into something way over their heads.

Robin and Matthew’s engagement is briefly broken off, and Robin begins looking for somewhere else to live, but the places she would be able to afford on the salary Strike pays her are single rooms in shared houses. As the case concludes, and Robin prepares to marry Matthew after all, thinking her investigative career over, Strike has nothing left. He has already pawned his watch to buy his friend Shanker’s help in bringing the case to an end and sensationally capturing a serial killer. Luckily, and very unusually for Shanker, he gives Strike a ride up to Yorkshire to repair one of the most important relationships of his life on credit.

Lethal White

Lethal White, Robert Galbraith

After their headline-grabbing role in capturing the Shacklewell Ripper, the agency’s fortunes are on the up. New clients swarm to Strike in the aftermath of the trial, so it becomes physically impossible for him and Robin to cover all the jobs themselves. For months following Robin’s marriage their biggest problem is managing their workload and finding reliable subcontractors. The risky hire of Glaswegian Sam Barclay turns out to be an excellent business decision though and Strike manages to give Robin an overdue pay rise, settle the last of his outstanding debts and buy a thirteen-year-old BMW 3 series. Still, once he has paid for garaging the car and met payroll, Strike is left with almost nothing to spend on himself and continues to live in two rooms over the office, cooking on a single-ringed hob.

The arrival of Jimmy Knight marks the beginning of another complex and dangerous case, but although Strike and Robin face numerous problems and dangers as if unfolds – Robin has to deal with her PTSD and failing marriage; Strike with his latest relationship and his ex-fiancée’s efforts to re-enter his life – the agency is going from strength to strength. Journalist Dominic Culpepper ends up taking his work to a rival, Patterson’s, which is no bad thing as far as Strike is concerned.

Troubled Blood

Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith

With some decent contractors like Barclay, and the chain-smoking Pat in the office, Robin and Strike’s agency is continuing to expand, but as the complex case of the disappearance of Margot Bamborough unfolds, Strike’s need to spend time with his dying aunt stretches them to breaking point. The growth is hard to manage, and the partners are so busy covering their cases, at times they barely see each other. Still, now Strike is in a position to start building up their bank account to see them through the lean times, even if his brother-in-law Greg thinks this is under-ambitious.

The Ink Black Heart

The Ink Black Heart, Robert Galbraith

When Strike and Robin celebrate her birthday at the Ritz, things are looking good for the agency, but the continued success of the agency is threatened again, this time by Strike’s ex-fiancée’s attempts to involve him in her divorce. Dealing with that threat means shifting resources away from crucial investigations as they uncover the mystery behind the death of Edie Ledwell in the cemetery that inspired her successful cartoon, The Ink Black Heart. As the case unfolds the office in Denmark Street is bombed, one subcontractor leaves, and Strike fears the attentions of a violent radical group will scare away nervous clients.

The bombing though cements relationships at the agency, and when Edie’s killer is uncovered the agency still has a waiting list of clients eager to employ them. The end of the case marks another shift: when the window on the glass panel in the office door is replaced, it reads ‘Strike and Ellacott Detective Agency’.

Robin is no longer in danger of having to live in shared rooms either. By the time the investigation is complete, she’s the owner of her own flat, complete with a potted plant from Strike.

The Running Grave

The Running Grave, Robert Galbraith

With some trusted subcontractors, a bulging client list and Pat to manage the office, the Strike and Ellacott Detective Agency is in a very good place when they are approached by Sir Colin Edensor to investigate the Universal Humanitarian Church. Strike can afford to take his police contact to the upmarket Cinnamon Club when he needs a favour, and though he continues to live above the office he is free of some of the pressing financial concerns which haunted him in the early years of building his business. And his rivals end up with troubles of their own.

Still, the agency’s work continues to bring danger, intrigue and involves deep personal cost even as the business flourishes. In their pursuit of the fascinating mysteries of human behaviour though, those are costs Robin and Strike are both more than happy to pay.