JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy garners 2 million preorders online

The Harry Potter author's adult novel is a guaranteed success - but will it be any good?

She likes a good old mystery does Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Only the inner circle would have seen the contents of her bookshelves, but it’s safe to assume that a number of where, what and whodunits reside there. After all, she kept a Hogwarts-obsessed generation on its toes with the nerve-jangling tension which revolved around each Harry Potter publication (and getting them to stay up way past their bedtimes for those late-night store-openings): who would be bumped off this time? Would Voldemort get closer to Harry? Are Ron ‘n’ Hermione ever going to get it on?

Chances are some of those who read the first few books in the late 90s will have their minds just as exercised with questions upon the imminent release of The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown) as the Edinburgh-based author unleashes her first adult novel upon the public. Ahead of publication on 27 September, all we know is a basic synopsis: set in the idyllic English town of Pagford, fortysomething Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies, leaving a vacant seat on the parish council. As a keenly fought election ensues, the true relations between some townsfolk will soon be revealed over the course of 512 pages.

Given the anticipation, it was more hype than helpful for Rowling’s US publisher to compare her to Dickens (surely a statement about quantity rather than quality?). But no matter what any mean-spirited critic says, this book is guaranteed to shift shedloads: a mere two million copies had so far been pre-ordered a month before publication. The true test will come with what JK Rowling writes next: will The Casual Vacancy have stirred her readers into a wave of follow-up excitement or will public interest in her adult literary career be as dead as a Dumbledore?

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