Thursday, January 28, 2016

The case of the missing foot

Robert Galbraith
I thoroughly enjoy mystery novels and think many of them are excellently written.  I don't generally like to commit to series, but I do enjoy a good mystery series, mostly because I like learning more about characters I love and seeing them grow.  I especially enjoy when authors tackle real issues in their novels, using their characters and the mysteries they confront to provide perspective on the world as it is now.  I think this is why there is often overlap between SFF and mystery fans - the best authors do this really well in both genres.

One author who excels at putting heart and soul (and a lot of humor) into fantasy and mystery is JK Rowling.  Her third book in the Cormoran Strike mystery series, Career of Evil, is a truly excellent book.  It clocks it at about 500 pages; I was at the tail end of a very slow reading year, and yet I managed to plow through the book in only a few days.  I even stayed up quite late one weeknight to finish it, which is rare for me.

What made this book so good?  I mean, yes, there's the whole serial-killer-who-seems-to-have-a-personal-vendetta-against-Strike plot, and that is very compelling to read.  But the mystery portion of a mystery novel is, strangely, never the reason I fall in love with the story.  I spend zero time trying to figure out whodunnit while I'm reading the story (possibly because I almost always skip ahead to the end before I finish the second chapter, but even then, I don't really look for clues while reading the rest of the book).

Really, what made this book for me is that Rowling/Galbraith finally delivered on the Robin Ellacott part of the story.  For the first two books in the series, I really loved Robin as a character - she is strong, kind, loyal and brave - but I hated her fiancee.  I still hate her fiancee, but I understand better now why Robin stayed with him.  We learn much more about Robin in this outing, spend much more time in her head.  I think Robin is where the link to the Harry Potter stories is the strongest in this series (if you happen to be looking for a link).  She is exactly the sort of person Hermione Granger would grow up to be.  And, as you may know, Hermione didn't have the best taste in men, either.

Another plus in this novel's column is that Strike's ex-girlfriend Charlotte gets hardly any mention.  Charlotte was the worst, and I bid her good riddance.  I hope she doesn't return, though that is probably asking too much.  Why both main characters have so much melodrama in their romantic relationships is beyond me.  Much as we learned about Robin in this book, we also learned quite a bit about Cormoran Strike's formative years, and I was a glutton for the information.  Career of Evil was like birthday cake for me.  While I think Strike is coming out to be more of a loner and isolationist than I would have liked, he's still a very interesting person to spend 500 pages with.  I just wish he didn't so easily dispose of women.

Of course, when you have a man and a woman with melodramatic romances in their lives, it's inevitable that there would be sexual tension between them.  And there is, certainly, between Robin and Strike.  It's been building up for three books now, and I'm not sure where it's going or what will happen.  But I assume Rowling/Galbraith knows, and I trust her completely.

The Cormoran Strike (I admit it irks me that the series is named only after Strike and does not mention Robin at all) mystery series absolutely does not fall into the "cozy" subgenre.  They are bloody, dark, and very complicated stories.  But they're also very well-written, and the series improves with each book, so I highly recommend checking them out if you have any interest.  Especially for Robin - it's very difficult not to love her.


  1. You know what, I never noticed that Robin was missing from the series' title and I think you're absolutely right. From now on I'll start referring to it as the Strike/Ellacott or Cormoran/Robin series. Completely agree that for once the mystery takes second place over the drama (that scene in Robin's kitchen made my blood pressure rise to unhealthy levels!), although from a feminist POV is was a good story to read (good as in terrible, you know what I mean...).

    1. PS: I don't remember the last time listened to an 18 hour audiobook so fast - also sacrificed some sleeping hours when I shouldn't have!

    2. I know exactly what you mean about it being excellent from a feminist POV in that it got your blood boiling. That scene took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting Strike to react so violently. I think Strike's behavior is harder for me to puzzle out - he seems a little inconsistent sometimes.

      I love the way Robin fights for what she believes in and for the one person's life that she can change and improve.

    3. It is harder to figure out I agree. Did you notice how differently they react to their obvious attraction? Strike acknowledges it (to himself) and tries to rationalize it, while Robin goes for denial. It's exactly what I'd expect each of them to do!

  2. Not for me, why can't I read this genre`? Weird

  3. I like mystery series for the same reasons you do, & I rarely worry about figuring out the solution. I haven't read this yet, though they have been on my reading radar. As with many series, I'm guessing these are best read in order?

  4. Hey hey! I am just finally getting around to reading The Silkworm (boooo Jenny), so Career of Evil is on the docket pretty soon. (I say that now. I read The Cuckoo's Calling not too long after it first came out, and it took me this long to get to The Silkworm so who knows?) But yeah, getting rid of Charlotte was a very, very solid call. She wasn't in The Cuckoo's Calling ALL that much? But the amount that she was in it was way, way too much for my taste.

  5. I haven't read a single book in this series but now I will definitely be adding the first one to my list. I had a little trouble with her Casual Vacancy - more like I liked it but it was taking time to get through it. But it's definitely time to get back to her books.


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