Tag Archives: Robert Galbraith

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Lethal White Book 4 of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith #Brainfluffbookreview #LethalWhitebookreview

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I didn’t enjoy Career of Evil – see my review here – as much as the previous two books and was a bit worried that this was a series that would be sliding further down into the gritty grunge of the murder mystery spectrum, as it’s not what I prefer to read. However this time around, I absolutely loved this one – it’s my favourite so far…

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

This story spans the full range of the social class system in England – from a mentally ill young man, clearly unable to adequately look after himself to a Minister of the State with a complicated family life. Cormoran Strike, dogged private investigator, cannot shake the feeling that Billy wasn’t hallucinating about the horrific murder he described.

As part of the investigation, Robin goes undercover in the Houses of Parliament as an intern and that made for fascinating reading, given that Rowling got access to the overcrowded, shabby offices where most of the admin work is carried out. The murder mystery part of the book twists in all sorts of directions, until the crime-fighting duo finally pull enough clues together to work out what was going on. Which is when that title really comes into its own…

This long book isn’t solely about the murder mystery element – at least half the book is given over to Cormoran and Robin’s complicated private lives. In fact the book starts with a major event in Robin’s life that also impacts upon Cormoran – and if you have crashed midway into this series, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if you’ve somehow ended up with a romance. Though there isn’t all that much that is happy or romantic in this book. Both Cormoran and Robin are finding it difficult to keep their partners happy, given the demands the Agency is making upon their time. While Cormoran frequently finds the inevitable walking and standing he has to do creates real problems with his artificial leg, Robin is also battling with panics attacks caused by the last case where she was attacked and injured. I really like the fact that these protagonists aren’t Teflon-coated – they are brave and both crave adventure, but also have to deal with the fallout when an incident becomes terrifying and life-threatening.

This is a long book, but at no time did I feel I was trudging through it. The final denouement was a genuine shock – I hadn’t guessed who the culprit was – and the book managed to tie up all the loose ends, leaving me wanting more…
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Seems like, street lights, glowin’…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is street light covers, so I’ve chosen The Cuckoo’s Calling – Book 1 of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling – see my review here.

 

This offering, produced by Mulholland Books in April 2013, is an interesting one – giving us the back of a young starlet who is facing a barrage of press photographer flashlights. What spoils it for me is the white colour of the font against the white lights which makes it difficult to pick out the title. I do like the fact it is uncluttered.

 

This is the definitive cover for the book, produced in April 2013 by Sphere, and is the scene depicting Cormoran leaning into the wind under a street lamp – he looks utterly alone. This is my favourite. I love the street railings and the chilly turquoise sky that give it a sense of melancholy and threat – so much classier than many of the modern covers with weapons dripping blood… The title font is also nicely done – clear and easily readable without slashing through the artwork.

 

This cover design produced in June 2014 by Salani does what many Italian covers do so well – take the overriding theme of the original successful cover and then makes it their own. For me, this runs the original a very, very close second. I love the muted colours, the sense of solitude and the Thames running alongside the walkway with Westminster arising from the mist in the background.

 

This offering is another Italian effort, produced in July 2014 by La Biblioteca di Repubblica, which has gone for an art decco version of the previous cover. The pity of it is that this interesting design is only a small strip in the centre of the cover. While the large chunks of black bordering the scene certainly give it a sombre mood, they are also boring.

 

What a difference a shift in the coloration can make – giving that cold turquoise a reddish tint certainly warms the cover up. This is the Catalan edition, produced by Proa in November 2014 and I’m guessing they decided the initial colour palette wouldn’t appeal to their book-buying public.

Which one is your favourite?

Review of Career of Evil – A Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous offerings of J.K. Rowling in the guise of crime writer Robert Galbraith – read my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here, and The Silkworm here. But would I like this third book in the series?

careerofevilWhen a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

While I wouldn’t call the previous two books cosy mysteries, Galbraith really takes the gloves off in this particular grime-crime storyline, where violence and abuse is doled out on a daily basis. Not, I hasten to add, between our two protagonists, who are thoroughly decent people struggling to do the right thing in difficult circumstances… In fact, during this book we learn some vital facts about Robin’s past that impacts on her upcoming wedding and her wish to become a private investigator alongside Strike.

I have to say that curled up in bed with the worst cold I’ve endured during the last decade, it was this particular story arc that kept me reading. While it is well written and vividly depicted, I wasn’t really up for facing the full consequences of Man’s inhumanity to Man while feeling so ill and depressed. So I’m aware that it is probably my own mental and physical circumstances that mean I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the previous two reads. During this investigation, Strike and Robin trudge through the backstreets, interviewing a succession of people coping with poverty, poor education and ill health, whose lives have been smeared by violence.

That said, the stakes are high and when we are in the viewpoint of the creepy protagonist as he stalks Robin, there is real tension. The story ratchets up to a suitably climactic denouement that also echoes the tumult in Robin’s personal life as her on-off relationship with long-time fiancé, Matt, also reaches a resolution. Galbraith’s writing packs a punch and I will reading the next one, because I want to know what happens to Strike and Robin. But I can’t help hoping the investigation won’t be quite so gritty…
8/10

Review of The Silkworm – Book 2 of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith

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This is the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series written by J.K. Rowling in her failed attempt to use a pen name in circumstances that the whole planet must know by now – see my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here. So, given the favourable reaction of the first book, both before and after the fuss created over the discovery of who Galbraith really was – does this much anticipated second book live up to expectation?

silkwormWhen novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits for almost everyone he knows. If the novel is published it will ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him…

And that’s as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal. I really enjoyed this one. Galbraith has thoroughly relaxed into the character of Strike, who bounces off the page with his stubbornness. The relationship between him and his secretary/sidekick is also steadily moving forward. Robin’s upcoming wedding could put a spanner in the works, though… And that’s not the only problematical wedding that crashes into Strike’s preoccupation with this tricky case during the book.

I used to thoroughly enjoy Sue Grafton’s trick of weaving the crime being investigated into Kinsey Millhone’s everyday life, so that we get a real sense of her as a person by the end of the story. Galbraith has managed to pull off the same trick – which relieves the pressure on the whodunit as we get increasingly caught up in the personal dilemmas facing both Strike and Robin.

Having said that, I found the mystery thoroughly absorbing. Galbraith had some pungent observations to make about the book world – the thousands of wannabe writers and their desperation and passion to get published were depicted with some sympathy, along with the sharpness. The niche publishing company doesn’t come out of the affair with all that much credit, either… As with the previous story, I really enjoyed the various plot twists and found that the book was impossible to put down once I’d got so far into the story – always the mark of a solidly good crime thriller. And I didn’t see the ending, either.

All in all, The Silkworm leaves me wanting more, and very glad that Rowling didn’t decide to hang up her laptop and retire to a tropical paradise after the Harry Potter series transformed her life. More, please. Whoever she decides to call herself, she’s worth reading.
9/10

Review of EBOOK The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

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I’d heard quite enough about J.K. Rowling’s latest foray into adult fiction – so downloaded the Kindle version to make up my own mind. Do I feel particularly outraged at her attempt to write under another name? Nope – after reading only a fraction of the snidely hostile reviews she accrued for The Casual Vacancy, it seemed an intelligent move to try and avoid the same bru-ha if she could. And authors writing under different pen-names for different genres is hardly ground-breaking stuff – so the big fuss it caused was just so much synthetic puff designed to fill column inches, it seemed to me.

cuckooCormoron Strike, ex-soldier with half a leg missing, is on the ropes. Homeless and heartbroken as his destructive relationship with his fiancée finally comes to an end, he also faces financial ruin. Until the brother of a dead childhood friend walks into the office, desperate for him to look into the death of Lula Landry, his step-sister and celebrity model. The police are satisfied that her fall from a balcony window in Mayfair was suicide, but John Bristow believes otherwise. He pays Strike double his normal fee to uncover the truth, which is enough for him to keep the latest temporary secretary, Robin, who seems to be working out really well.

Rowling’s strength is making us care about her characters, while spinning a page-turning story and these talents are aptly demonstrated in this entertaining, enjoyable whodunit. I rapidly bonded with Strike – whose attention to his personal hygiene in difficult circumstances I found very endearing. As he painstakingly tracks through Lula’s life, building up a picture of a beautiful super-model and the price of fame – as well as the trappings. The pressure of paparazzi hounding her every move and hacking into her phone leaves her depressed and isolated in a smart flat that she hates. As with the best crime thrillers, I found I increasingly cared about the victim as Strike unearths more details about her character and life, so that her death feels like a genuine tragedy by the end. Which is exactly what a reader should be feeling in this genre – and so often doesn’t.

I particularly relished the cast of characters, along with their unfolding backstories. There are a variety of interesting people in the frame for Lula’s murder – and I had no problem that Strike got there before me. If Rowling had been writing in limited first person viewpoint, I would have been quibbling about it, but she didn’t. Did I see the denouement coming? Although several reviewers have claimed that they guessed early on exactly who had done it, I didn’t. Not that I was bothering to try too much, as I was fully engrossed in the story. I happen to think that endings are something that Rowling does particularly well – and this time is no exception. There is a real sense of poignancy at Lula’s death that could have been avoided, if only things had been slightly different. Strike’s own character progresses well throughout the story, with a couple of dangling plot-points to keep us wondering and eager to read the next book in the series.

Any niggles? The prologue seemed a tad clunky, but once Strike appeared the pace picked up and Rowling  quickly settled into the story. I do wonder whether we actually need that awkward piece on the front of the narrative. The other issue I have is that the scene setting is patchy. In places it sings off the page. I could smell the scruffy office Strike inhabits and the glittering, ostentatious Mayfair flat was pin-sharp. However, the best writers in this genre also depict London with a similar cinematic clarity, and this is missing in The Cuckoo’s Calling. Though there is far too much to enjoy about this book to let such relatively minor weaknesses bother me – and they are noticeable is because the overall crafting of the book is so solid. I will definitely be buying the next one, whether Rowling chooses to continue using Robert Galbraith as her pen-name, or not.
8/10