Strike Series Rankings: The Final Tally

Kurt Schreyer posted a challenge to his Cormoran Strike loving followers on social media to rank the six mysteries from most favorite to least favorite. You can read his summary of the challenge responses he received from his dinner guests and twitter audience as well as his own ranking of the six Strike novels here.

Seven of us who write at HogwartsProfessor responded to this idea with posts that included both rankings and our reasoning and criteria for preferring certain books to others. I started the task here and was followed by Beatrice Groves, Nick Jeffery, Louise Freeman, Chris Calderon, Evan Willis, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy.

Join me after the jump for a tabulation of our rankings here, a comparison with the first twitter responses, and a few ideas about the various approaches Serious Strikers have taken to rank the series entries thus far with an eye to their merits and demerits.

Tallying up the seven HogwartsProfessor rankings reveals both a clear favorite and a loser, with the other four books in two dead-heats. I scored it as a Cross Country race in which the lowest score wins, i.e., one point for a first place vote, six for sixth, etc. Strike Series Ranking Results 

John Bea Nick Louise Chris Evan E’beth Total Ranking
Cuckoo 5 2 4 5 2 4 4 26 4
Silkworm 2 3 5 4 1 5 6 26 4
Career 6 6 6 6 6 6 5 35 6
Lethal 4 4 2 1 5 1 3 20 3
T’Blood 1    1     3       3      3     3      1    15        1
Ink Black 3 5     1       2      4     2      2    19        2

Here are my seven take-aways from a first look at this chart:

(1) The last will be first and the first last. Four of the seven writers chose the last three books as their favorites and the first three as their least favorite (Louise and Evan came the closest to an exact match, only disagreeing on the relative merits of Strikes 1 and 2).

(2) Troubled Blood the Best.  Though four readers ranked it third — meaning that they thought two other books were better than Strike5 — the remaining three marked it #1. The absence of any ‘below average’ votes meant the Margot Bamborough cold case and its remarkable occult material easily took the top spot.

(3) A Virtual Tie for Runner-Up There was a lotta love for the books just before and after Blood as well, with a negligible difference separating Lethal White and Ink Black Heart. The longer the books, obviously, the more HogwartsProfessor writers enjoyed them.

(4) An Actual Tie for Next to Last A significant gap exists between the three favorite and three least favorite novels in the series with Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm being six points below numbers 2 and 3 on the chart. Reading the notes on the first two novels, though, there is significant appreciation for the books, especially the fun of the series opener.

(5) Career of Evil the Consensus ‘Least Favorite’  The closest thing to perfect consensus among the site’s reviewers is that Strike3 is the closest thing to a strike-out in the series thus far. Every staff and adjunct Serious Striker here sans one put Career as dead last on their list. Even the two reviewers who used near-opposite criteria, Evan with his parallel and cross-over reading and Chris with his stand-alone book premium, both marked this book as the one they thought the least worthy of a higher rank than the bottom rung. Nine points separate it from fifth place while only eleven points separate first from fifth.

(6) Silkworm Runs the Table In contrast with Career’s consensus thumb’s down, Silkworm had the borderline incredible achievement of receiving all six possible rankings, first to last and all spots between, with only seven judges.

If you add up the twitter and dinner guest totals with Kurt Schreyer’s rankings of the series, you get  a chart with only a few significant differences with the Hogwarts Professor rankings:

G1 G2 T1 T2 T3 T4a T4b T5 T6 T7 T8 KS  Total Ranking
Cuckoo 5 3 5 2 4 5 6 1 5 4 5 3 48 5
Silkworm 6 6 3 6 5 4 5 6 3 5 6 5 60 6
Career 1 1 6 4 2 2 4 2 2 6 4 1 35 2
Lethal 2 2 4 3 6 6 3 4 4 3 2 4 43 3
T’Blood 4 4 1 1 1 3 1 3 1 1 1 2 23 1
Ink Black 3 5 2 5 3 1 2 5 6 2 3 6 43 3


Removing Career of Evil from both charts makes them near mirror images, with Troubled Blood the clear favorite, Lethal White and Ink Black Heart tied for runner-up, and the first two books at four and five, albeit with a lot less love for The Silkworm among the twitterati judges.

The big difference in the estimation of Career, I’m guessing, between these lists is that everyone except perhaps the dinner guests (who come the closest to matching rankings on either list) knew how those who had ranked the books before them had judged the novels. The Hogwarts Professor lot, with the exception of Chris Calderon, knew only the twitter lists; each was instructed not to read the lists posted here before composing their own.

A blind test, then, yields a consensus of Career as the least favorite while an open testing in which readers are shown previous judges’ works has Strike3 as second best. This suggests conformity bias when the first votes have the book at #1 (or a kind of loyalty and defensiveness for one’s friends) rather than objectivity.  T1 and T7 had the gumption to resist that tide and rank Silkworm #6 when the three dinner party guests made it their first choice, but those two twitter judges were the outliers there if right with the consensus at Hogwarts Professor.

I think it is fascinating, too, that those in the twitter poll who ranked the books with either a mystery-quality or romance criteria — or a combination of the two — came to nearly the same rankings as those who used more literary measures at Hogwarts Professor, especially my own, Beatrice Groves’, Louise Freeman’s, and Evan Willis.’ Rowling-Galbraith has the eggheads and Peanut Gallery applauding the same books, no small feat.

Along these lines, too, putting Career to one side, the biggest difference between those with terminal degrees and Strike fandom is in the ranking of Silkworm, the “novel about novels with a novel in it.” It is, I think, the metafictional key to the series, but one which amateur readers on twitter, those who really love the experience of reading but are not that into the depths-exploration, ranks as the anchor of the six books.

The odd thing is that I’m more than half convinced that Career and Silkworm are going to see the biggest changes in their standing among both groups when Running Grave is published and readers have the completed Potter parallel package in hand. Just as Deathly Hallows has remarkable connections and echoes of the outlier Prisoner of Azkaban story, always a fan favorite because of the film but with critics, too, especially in light of the finale, I think Career’s place in the first Strike septology will rise when all of its parallels with Grave become clear.

And Silkworm? Its embedded perverse Pilgrim’s Progress, the key to understanding the Strike-Ellacott relationship as a soul-spirit psychomachian allegory out of Shakespeare, I’m betting will, with Graves’ revelations cause even the readers who are more skeptical about this Quadrigal or Dante-esque reading to realize the brilliance and fun of the ur-novel of the series. 

Please remind me to run this survey of Hogwarts Professor about the relative merits of the Strike novels again after we have Running Grave  to read, compare and rank! Many thanks to the writers here who made this week of posts the delight it has been.