Two series I have enjoyed, for their action and their plot twists, are Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and Robert Galbraith’s (an alias of J. K. Rowling) Cormorran Strike’s series. Any good story requires the reader to become engaged with the principal character, and in both cases Reacher and Strike deliver. They are both being over six feet tall, brooding ex-military police mavericks. But that is where the similarities end. Reacher is the essence of all things masculine: tall and strong with hand-to-hand combat skills bordering on the superhuman, and a love of weaponry. His baggage is limited to being made redundant by the army. In order to set him apart from other protagonists in the genre, Child made him a drifter, an alienated, chivalrous knight as opposed to an anti-hero tormented by addiction and haunted by past misbehavior. His only weaknesses seem to be drinking too much coffee and not being good at driving. Reacher’s feelings are always secondary to his instincts, which seem to give him an effortless ability to distinguish right from wrong. This, together with a willingness to act on that distinction efficiently and ruthlessly, often creates rivers of blood. Cormoran Strike is a different breed, also an ex-military policeman, but discharged due to losing part of his leg in an explosion in Afghanistan. His prosthesis gives him a constant daily challenge in his life as a private investigator and his upbringing as the illegitimate son of a rockstar and deceased drug addicted groupie carries with it an emotional toll that is referred to throughout the series. Whereas Reacher is the only protagonist in the series, Strike shares center stage with his assistant Robin, who faces her own investigative and personal challenges.
The plots in both series are tightly constructed and gloriously twisted. Child’s writing is wonderfully economic in sentence length but precise and fittingly, almost like a military report whereas Rowling indulges in beautiful lengthy prose. Both authors are British, but Child’s Reacher is an American. Strike is quintessentially British and an understanding of British customs and phrases is useful when reading the series, together with a tolerance for swear words, which curiously despite the greater bloodshed is lacking in the Reacher novels.In terms of enjoyment, I have no preference. If it came down to a fight between the two characters, then although Strike manages to hold his own in most fights despite his physical disadvantage, he would probably be no match for Reacher, who is a one-man killing machine, verging on psychopathic.