Kurt Schreyer – Strike Series Ranking

Kurt Schreyer, Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Missouri, and author of Shakespeare’s Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage, tweeted a challenge to his ardent StrikeFans audience that they rank the six Strike novels from best to worst and share the reasoning of their list’s sequence. Our beloved Headmaster has challenged the faculty to respond with our own reasoned lists. Here to kick off our series is Prof Schreyer with his own series ranking. Please do comment down below your challenges and agreement. Which of the series is your favourite?

Strike Series Pick Six – Kurt Schreyer

A few months ago, my wife and I invited two friends over for dinner and knowing that they are big fans of Robert Galbraith, I asked them how they would rank the first six books of the Strike & Ellacott detective series. Both chose Career of Evil (2015) as their favorite, a result which I was to (unscientifically) discover is unusual but not as outlandish as some might suppose. Intrigued by my guests’ responses I brought the conversation to Twitter in January 2023 and received some similarly fascinating results (see the table below).[1] Combining the overall results from dinner guests and Twitter users, six chose Troubled Blood (2020) as their top pick. The Silkworm (2014), on the other hand, was ranked last by five people and second-to-last by two more. As for Career, which had been the favorite of our dinner guests, four people on Twitter ranked it as their number two. It should be pointed out that the votes for The Ink Black Heart (2022) and Lethal White (2018) were so close as to probably be considered tied.

Twitter Results from January 2023

Novel G1 G2 T1 T2 T3 T4* T5 T6 T7 T8 Weighted Total Ranking
CC 5 3 5 2 4 5 1 5 4 5 31 5
SW 6 6 3 6 5 4 6 3 5 6 20 6
CoE 1 1 6 4 2 2 2 2 6 4 39 2
LW 2 2 4 3 6 6 4 4 3 2 34 4
TB 4 4 1 1 1 3 3 1 1 1 50 1
IBH 3 5 2 5 3 1 5 6 2 3 35 3
Key: G = dinner guest / T = Twitter respondent

* Twitter user T4 also ranked according to romance: TB, IBH, LW, CoE, SW, CC

Tallying the votes of these ten fans (a first-place vote receives 6 points, second-place 5, etc.) produces the following (again, highly unscientific) rankings:

Troubled Blood
Career of Evil
The Ink Black Heart
Lethal White
The Cuckoo’s Calling
The Silkworm

Twitter user Rebecca H (@GinnyW1981) was particularly articulate in her response and like other readers, distinguished between romantic elements and the crime drama. For example, she gave high marks to both Troubled Blood and The Ink Black Heart for the plot of their mysteries but distinguished them according to the progress or frustration in the relationship between Strike and Robin. The fact that both Silkworm and Career of Evil rank so low for her and others led me to speculate on Twitter that the abattoir-like crime scenes distress readers and dampen their enthusiasm for these particular books.

John has invited several contributors to The Hogwarts Professor site to rank the books and provide some justification “sight unseen” – that is, without the benefit of reading one another’s opinions beforehand. But, so that readers will have the (ahem!) correct answers, let me tell you the proper order. Joking aside, this task is, in the words of Twitter user LudicrousMoniker (@LudicrousMonica), like being asked to rank your children. With that in mind, here are my rankings: 

No. 6 The Ink Black Heart and No. 5 The Silkworm

Unfortunately someone has to go last and I hope that Flavia and Dodo will find it in their hearts to forgive me, but when I think about recommending or rereading a Robert Galbraith novel, these are not the first to appeal. This probably means that I should, in fact, reread both very soon.

No. 4 Lethal White

Book four ranks fourth on my list. I have never minded the growing length of the Galbraith novels and this is certainly true of Lethal White. In fact, I relish its subplots and the scenes with minor characters, particularly the ridiculous Chiswells. Yes, I’m looking at you and your mustard corduroys, Torquil. I also enjoy the novel for its testimony to Rowling’s time with Amnesty International. But above all Lethal White stands out as the crucible for the character that Robin will become. Further consideration of this point alone could easily lead me to place this book in the top two or three. But as you’ll see… 

Nos. 2 & 3 The Cuckoo’s Calling and Troubled Blood

…I have a bit of a dilemma when discerning between numbers two and three. I love beginnings and origin stories, and our introduction to Strike and Robin is more than unforgettable: it’s very special. And somehow we go from Strike scrupling to tell an awkward Batman & Robin joke to the green dress and Tennyson’s Ulysses in just over four-hundred and fifty pages. It wasn’t – isn’t – enough and therefore I dip into or reread Cuckoo often. Am I cuckoo? Did I mention I like beginnings? As for Troubled Blood I don’t have any praise to add to the outpouring it received on Twitter in January and I could easily put it at number one, but I’m feeling a bit puckish at the criticism that the remaining book sometimes comes in for, and therefore…

No. 1 Career of Evil

From Macbeth and Richard III to Dean Koontz’s Whispers (1980), what reader doesn’t love being given access to a deranged killer’s psychology? Well, me. But that’s besides the point: I don’t think Rowling/Galbraith’s virtuosity with narratological voices has received enough critical attention or praise. I realize that the sadism of the criminals in this book knock it down in the rankings for many readers, and it’s true that the violence in this third novel of the series is undeniably disturbing in itself. Yet what is more disturbing is how Galbraith’s secondary plots bring home to us the solemn and depressing fact that while serial killers may grab the headlines, they make up only a tiny fraction of the many violent threats women face in contemporary society. The novel is Dickensian in its social awareness and its critique of our indifference to this reality, and the depiction of violence is arguably as essential to this task as the deaths of beloved characters in the Harry Potter series were necessary to show the reality of evil to fans who had begun reading those books as young children. Career also ranks high for me because we witness Strike having one of his “Sherlock” moments when the solution clicks into focus and he lays his trap for the murderer. I live for moments when Cormoran Strike becomes the hunter. And it’s Jack the Ripper he’s hunting for crying out loud – I love the chutzpah! One final aspect of Career is often undervalued is the amount of Strike’s history it fills in, and as we all suspect, this material will be important to the climax of the series. But by book three that information was somewhat overdue, and I think Galbraith did a remarkable job of weaving it into a present-day case for our detective-heroes.

Thank you for letting me share my rankings. I’m very much looking forward to the thoughts of the other contributors as well as our readers. De gustibus non disputandum est.


[1] [ https://twitter.com/kasstl1/status/1616101334406635521 ]



  1. Hello Kurt,

    great reasoning… Thanks for mentioning my tweet.

    The difference between CoE and SW is for me, the killers. I absolutely HATE all 3 suspects so much, that I cannot enjoy the book. I love the shippiness of CoE, as well as the road trips (Cormoran alone in Edinburgh, and both in Barrow).
    With regards to SW: I love the more disgusting parts of the novel by ‘Owen Quine’. SW isn’t above CC because I love the entertainment world more than the publishing one. And like you, I love a good beginning of a series.

  2. I just finished writing up my rankings, Kurt, and hurried over here to find out how wrong I was. Indeed, you make a good case for Career of Evil being legible, even “Dickensian,” a much better case than I imagined could be made.

    I dread, though, if your criteria in ranking these books is how much you “think about recommending or rereading a Robert Galbraith novel,” the experience of readers who begin the series with Career. Outside of students reading Titus Andronicus, I mean Richard III, I have a hard time imagining them enjoying the bloodbath (can you say “violence porn”?).

    As you say, de gustibus! Thank you for the great idea for this post-thread and for the perfect contribution to start us off!

  3. Kurt, much as I love “when Cormoran Strike becomes the hunter,” I love when Robin shines as the golden-headed heroine she is. And not just as a detective, but as a wounded lover. When she and Strike work together laughing or yelling, debriefing interviews that’s my all time fave. Here’s my ranking:
    TB- cuz chapters 58-59 from “Before her stands her knight” to “The warlike Britonesse…” (absolutely love the epigraphs!), also Valentines Day and the “bloody laughing” at the Trafalgar and Sam
    LW- from panic attack in Land Rover to celebratory champagne to Tegan (“you know everything!”) to Brown Panther; also Billy and Bobbi Cunliffe’s note in a sanitary towel
    IBH- Robin coming into her own, in spite of romantic chaos; Zoe and Flavia and Edie
    CC- helluva beginning on the stairwell, green dress, Ciara and Cuckoo; shocking climax
    SW- really wish I could give Dodo a higher rating but the crime scene was godawful
    CoE- loved Robin surviving her stalker while plowing ahead with a wedding she didn’t know she didn’t want till a battered Strike showed up, but really I was bewildered and distracted by body integrity dysphoria (WTH)

    I realize my choices are more about character development, so thank you to Rebecca for making that distinction. Honestly that’s what I like about most books. Thank you Kurt for this fun dive into my favorite parts!!

  4. Louise Freeman says


    Even though CoE ranks low on my list, I do love the psychology of it. BIID is a real neurological condition– associated with the right parietal lobe of the brain –Tempest may be annoying but she is not delusional or a “nutter.” And I love the way, when everything finally “clicks” for Strike, after how much Laing had gotten into his head, Strike turns the tables and lays the perfect trap to snag him.

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