Written by Robert Galbraith. Review by Ridiculosity.
The third book in the Cormoran Strike series, Rowling writes with the pen name of Robert Galbraith. It’s a long book, which is also rather complicated, as it happens.
The difficulty with Rowling’s writing has always been more on style than characterization or plot. In this case also, I have mixed feelings about a lot of the info dump that Rowling gives us about Cormoran Strike’s past. The blurb tells you what you need to know about the book: there is a leg which is sent to Strike’s office, one which is wrapped surprisingly well. Addressed to Robin, his partner.
Rowling has achieved a lot with what she has written. Harry Potter was that rare series that made reading in an age of technology cool again. The Casual Vacancy was not her best book, but she did write an excellent teenage perspective. With the Cormoran Strike novels, she achieves something very, very rare.
She makes a protagonist who is not very good looking, rather rugged, and someone who is at odds with the idea of romantic love. In addition to that, he also dislikes children. And yet, Cormoran Strike is likeable to an amazing degree. Robin Ellacott, his partner has a natural charm, but Strike has a toughened charm which simply cannot be ignored. Rowling’s writing is fantastic in the way that it never forces such characterization on you – it develops naturally.
And while I loved the build up between Robin and Cormoran, I found myself in a complicate relationship with the book itself. The first one was well written, yet at the same time, too long drawn. The second one was brilliant, excellently executed and covered a murder which generally had me on my toes.
This one was complicated because Rowling shows the perspective of the killer for the first time, and in the first chapter itself. It is a sadistic case they follow, and a sadistic mind that they are trying to track. In this way, Rowling engages her readers to think about the mind behind a murder which is born of frustration and disgust, and on some level, sheer anger and violence. Such raw insanity is something which is difficult to portray, yet she manages.
My problem with the book, however, is the extended narrative. In this book, it is obvious what Rowling is doing: she is spinning the story of Cormoran Strike’s past. It’s obvious that his childhood was not a fantasy, but for the first time, we see just how bad it was. We see the cases he has handled previously, and we see how he is made the way he is: out of acceptance of his past and acceptance of the universally twisted nature of human minds.
Yet, how much of this is well written? Many times the transition between the real world Cormoran to the Cormoran remembering his past is a little sloppy. Often enough the chapters written from the killer’s perspective are a little boring and leave you with more questions than any real plot building. Often, these chapters seem a little forced.
I feel conflicted about this book: it is not as well written as The Silkworm was, and yet, it manages to establish some much needed insight into Cormoran Strike’s past without having him indulge in random memories in an unconnected case. This one is personal, this one requires him to think about his past. And through that, we get to see Cormoran Strike of old.
Robin, obviously, deserves a mention. She is brilliant, and with every book I like her more. The book is building to a romantic relationship between herself and Cormoran, but I dislike the idea of it. Such an excellent professional relationship simply should not be jeopardized.
Yet, at the same time, I find myself hating Michael Cunliffe, Robin’s fiancé more and more with every book and literally every sentence he is mentioned in. I hate him with a passion I did not think was capable. At least the murderer’s mind is out and out misogynistic, it is grisly and it is something I can comprehend as someone I would feel very afraid of. Michael I hate on principle: he belittles Robin, and I dislike him.
The inherent problem with this book is the world building: as an author who has previously had to introduce her readers to a different world, she is used to a long narrative by now. However, this is not an unknown world we look into. Most of us watch crime drama of some sort – we’re familiar with this world. So long a narrative was not needed.
It’s a complicated book, that much I can tell you. I’m ambivalent, yet I can tell you that I would read the next one or even buy the next one.