Career of Evil- Robert Galbraith

This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, so there are probably spoilers in here for the previous two.  If that is a thing you care about.

THIS BOOK. SO SO SO GOOD.

Strike and Robin are back, keeping busy with some surveillance cases. One day, Robin receive a woman’s severed leg in the post and it is clear this killer has a personal ax to grind with Strike and has his sights set on Robin as his next victim. Strike is quick to identify three likely suspects from his past and when the police don’t take his leads seriously enough, he and Robin do some investigating on the side, of course. All the while, the killer is keeping busy, stalking Robin and killing and dismembering his way across London.

Plot-wise, this wasn’t my favorite mystery in this series. There are several chapters told from the killer’s POV that read like textbook serial killer behavior. He’s misogynistic. He puts on a pretty face to his girlfriend. His thirst to kill ramps up over time and he gets clumsier and more desperate as he seeks that kill-high more and more frequently. All of that felt very done before, not to say that the killer wasn’t super creepy. It was kind of interesting to see the killer’s POV in the story, but again, it’s been done before and I guess evil serial killer is just not compelling enough for me any more (I guess I’ve read too much serial killer stuff).

In addition to the somewhat tired feel of the killer, there are three clear and obvious suspects from the start. While they are all horrible men and I never was certain who was the killer, I was almost able to pull all the pieces together. Galbraith/Rowling is very good at not constructing a mystery in which the answer is obvious to the reader, leaving enough out of the text to leave you wondering and pursuing the truth, but there was such a limited suspect pool for whom we all get extended backstories, it would be impossible to not come up with a theory that touches on the actual solution to the mystery. All that to say, I still cared about the mystery and the killer was dangerous and there were some seriously scary parts with him in them, but really, this book was more about the Strike-Robin dynamic than anything.

There is a serious amount of character and relationship development with Strike and Robin in this installment and Strike and Robin are what make this series as good as it is. The more Rowling that I read, the more I realize that her strength lies in the development of characters, something that was apparent in The Casual Vacancy, but is especially satisfying in the Cormoran Strike series. Robin is amazingly likeable– smart, strong, principled, and wickedly talented at detective work. And I have a weak spot for Strike– he’s exactly the kind of gruff, intelligent hero I can’t get enough of and his interactions with Robin are always the highlight of these books. I was kind of blown away by how much I liked seeing the two of them together in this book– there were a lot more opportunities for a new kind of intimacy to develop in their relationship. This book is the first time that Strike and Robin really acknowledge that they are friends and confidantes, that their relationship is more than strictly professional, and that there might even be more than platonic feelings between them.  I don’t want to say too much, but this is the first time I’ve really seen Rowling write sexual tension and go figure, she’s amazing at it.

The final chapter left me with my mouth hanging open. I have no idea what actually happened there and I’m sure it will be at least another year before I can find out. More Strike, more Robin, an actual answer to what the heck that last sentence meant–gah, I can’t wait. These books are some of my favorites. Basically, everyone needs to read them and love them as much as I do.

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The Silkworm- Robert Galbraith

If you read my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling, you’ll already know that I really enjoy the Cormoran Strike series.  In fact, I liked it so much I immediately started The Silkworm after finishing the first novel and am eagerly anticipating future installments in this series.

The Silkworm was even better than The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Mainly because we get to see the relationship between Strike and his assistant, Robin, develop more.  Robin shows a real interest and aptitude for investigative work and Strike, after some initial hesitation and a bit of a blow-up between the two, starts giving more responsibility to Robin and mentoring her.  I love seeing the two of them work together and the fondness they have for one another is so nice to see in a platonic and professional male-female relationship in fiction.  Getting to know more about Robin was definitely a highlight.  Her friendliness and ability to set people at ease is a great complement to Strike’s harsher, grumpier demeanor.

As for the plot, The Silkworm involves the investigation of a missing author.  Owen Quine has been known to disappear before, but his wife is starting to worry.  Strike soon discovers that Quine has left shortly after the manuscript of his latest novel, Bombyx Mori (the Latin name for silkworm), gets out.  It is inflammatory and smears everyone from his wife to his girlfriend to his editor, agent, and publisher.  Soon Quine is found murdered and the investigation ramps up, as the police focus in on Quine’s wife, whom Strike is convinced is innocent.  Strike, once again, has to set out to prove the police wrong by finding the real killer.

Another thing that set this book apart for me from the first book was that it felt a lot more literary… most of that is because the victim was an author and his work is prominent to the crime.  But the crime and the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the bits and pieces of Bombyx Mori are all very steeped in Elizabethan/Jacobean literature.  I am not super familiar with this stuff, but I did read The Faerie Queene my freshman year of college and having that background gave me some grounding for the heavy-handed allegory and symbolism of Bombyx Mori.  I also remember it being very vividly gross and violent, but I might be thinking of something else I read way back in Brit Lit Before 1700 so, forgive me.  But anyways, I really enjoyed the literary atmosphere and how the mood of this story echoed the literature it referenced.

Anyways, I can’t recommend this series highly enough for fans of detective novels.  Strike and Robin are delightful characters and the mysteries are twisted enough that they truly keep me puzzled until the end of the books.  I, for one, will be devouring every book in this series… can’t wait to see what happens next!

The Cuckoo’s Calling- Robert Galbraith

 

Supermodel Lula Landry falls to her death from her third-story balcony.  The police rule it a suicide, but Lula’s brother, John, is not convinced.  He hires the down-and-out private detective, Cormoran Strike, to investigate her death, insistent that Lula was pushed.  Strike is down on his luck, having just ended a relationship and being in debt up to his ears.  While he isn’t sure there is anything worth pursuing in the Lula Landry case, he need the big bucks John is going to pay him and feels compelled to delve a little deeper, so he accepts the case.  Things are, of course, not like they seem in Lula’s life or death.

I have no idea if I would ever have considered reading this if it weren’t for the fact that Robert Galbraith=J.K. Rowling and I’m sure that colors my feelings on this story, as well.  But I loved this book.  Namely, I love Cormoran Strike.  He’s a former army investigator, but since losing most of a leg in Afghanistan has been trying to eke out a living as his own boss.  His life is a total mess as this story starts.  His turbulent relationship with his fiance is finally over and he’s homeless and nearly penniless.  He’s been sleeping in his office, where he receives both weekly death threats from a crazy past client, and daily calls from his creditors.  He only has one client and her case is almost over.  And Strike isn’t exactly dealing with these hits gracefully.  He’s a bit sullen, slow to warm up to people.  But somehow Strike is also an incredibly charming character.  He’s very intelligent and knows how to get people talking.  He’s a bit scarred from a difficult childhood, but this seems to serve to make him more accepting of people, particularly the downtrodden.

Also noteworthy is Strike’s temporary secretary, Robin.  Robin is sharp and harbors a secret longing to be a detective herself.  She is clever and discrete enough to deal with really sticky interpersonal situations and is queen of Google.  She and Strike get along intuitively it seems and come to share a mutual admiration and affection for one another.  Their relationship is fun to watch develop and Robin scenes were always some of my favorite.

As for the plot, it was a fairly usual murder mystery.  Suspects abound.  Witnesses are lying or evasive or end up mysteriously dead.  But I wasn’t clever enough to guess the killer in the end and that always makes for a more satisfying mystery story.

I listened to this on audiobook and just wanted to mention that the narrator, Robert Glenister, was fantastic.  A lot of this book is dialogue with both male and female characters with all sorts of different accents and Glenister pulled it off.  The narration definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the story to the point that I plan on reading all of the books in this series on audio (already started The Silkworm audiobook, in fact).

If you like a good mystery with a gruff, but loveable detective (I’m thinking the TV show, House, here), this book is right up your alley.  Strike and Robin are a great duo to follow as they try to unravel the truth of what happened to Lula Landry.