The first novel for adults by Harry Potter author JK Rowling will be the "blackly comic" tale of a fraught parish council election in a quaint English town, her publishers announced Thursday.
The 408-page novel The Casual Vacancy follows the fallout of councillor Barry Fairweather's sudden death in the fictional town of Pagford, a world away from that inhabited by the famous boy wizard, publishers Little, Brown said.
With its cobbled market square and ancient abbey, Pagford may look like an English idyll, "but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war", they said in a statement.
"Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils... Pagford is not what it first seems," the publishers said.
"And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?"
Rowling laid down her pen — and Harry's magic wand — when she finished the seventh and final Potter book in 2007, and since then the series has sold more than 450 million copies around the world in 74 languages.
The 46-year-old is Britain's 15th wealthiest woman, according to The Sunday Times newspaper's Rich List 2011, with a £530-million (R6.7-billion) fortune.
The Potter books were made into eight films, with the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 making more than $1-billion last year.
The Casual Vacancy will be released worldwide in English on 27 September in hardback, ebook, audio download and CD formats, Little, Brown said.
Rowling has changed publishers for the novel, leaving behind Bloomsbury, with whom she became the world's best-paid author.