The Casual Vacancy is a long way from Harry Potter, but it already has its fans
Credit: Little, Brown and Company; Inset:Landov

After leaving Harry Potter behind, does J.K. Rowling have something magical for an encore?

That’s the question readers are wondering now that the British novelist, 47, is releasing The Casual Vacancy, her first novel specifically geared to adults.

Plot-wise, the book, available worldwide today as a hardback, e-book and audio download, is a far cry from the Potter series. It tells the darkly comic story of a small British town thrown into turmoil when one of its residents dies. And PEOPLE calls it “a tough, ambitious book full of heartbreak and grim social commentary a vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff.”