During the 150th rerun of the "Counter Culture Blues" episode of "Lewis" on Foxtel, it seemed there wouldn't be anything fresh to take the place of those British detective mystery series I loved: "Morse", "Lewis", "Vera", "Shetland" etc.
Then along came "C.B. Strike". It has a slightly different vibe but it has the basic ingredients that made those older series work so well.
Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) is a private investigator. He's ex-British army and has lost a leg in Afghanistan. There is pain, physically and emotionally. However, no training for Invictus for him, he often ties one on at his local pub, smokes and has a haphazard diet rich in saturated fats. He crashes in his office, which looks so rank you automatically reach for the Air Wick.
Burke is not unlike Stacy Keach, an actor who always had edge. As he walks through chilly streets, collar of his coat turned up and hands in pockets, he conjures up the iconic image of James Dean or even Sam Spade transposed to London.
J. K. Rowland and the filmmakers have hit on things that elevate the great detective series from the ordinary. The main character must have empathy. They don't have to be particularly articulate, but you need to feel their innate understanding of the human condition.
Strike is a man of few words, but he is a good listener. We sense wisdom gained through adversity. Strike joins characters like George Gently, Vera Stanhope, Tom Mathias and even Bogie's Sam Spade - all graduates of the school of hard knocks.
"Strike" ticks another box: the Butch and Sundance one - the buddy at your back. But again there's a difference, Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) starts out as a temp in Strike's messy office, organises it, becomes his girl Friday and then partner. At episode five, it's still not a romance, she's engaged to someone else anyway, but the rapport is strong, she likes the work and she's smart.
The stories so far have been good even if "The Cuckoo's Calling" was possibly stretched out one episode too long. However the second one, "The Silkworm", is tighter.
There are only three novels so far (another on the way), but like the stories of Ann Cleeves ("Vera", "Shetland"), there is room for whole seasons based on the original characters. Here's hoping.