Saturday, October 31, 2015

Into the black

 People get too worked up when children's authors branch out into writing books about murder, sex, and mayhem. At least I'm pretty sure that's why JK Rowling took on the name of Robert Galbraith when she started writing her excellent Cormoran Strike murder mysteries.

These are gory, aggressive, and very adult novels. They're packed with dark themes and conflicted characters, there's an underlying sense of cynicism that pervades the big detective's life and work that doesn't seem to mesh with the hopeful, bright-eyed world of Hogwarts. And that's delightful.

I'm stoked that Rowling hasn't typecast herself into writing only one kind of story, and I'm bummed that I have to preface writing about Strike with a brief discussion of Harry. Rowling has done a remarkable thing and written a series of novels that have defined a generation then turned around and written another series of novels that would have no problem standing on their own two feet as excellent mystery novels had they been written by someone entirely else.

So anyway, here's the breaks: I'm never again going to mention that Galbraith and Rowling are the same. These books deserve better than that.

Strike is fantastic. I love the angry fucker; he's an arrogant prick who constantly second-guesses himself and I adore the flaws in the character. He knows how badly he's capable of fucking up. He knows he's far from perfect. But he soldiers on and keeps butting his thick head against the world anyway, and I admire the crafting of that contradictory monster.

I particularly enjoyed the Robin/Cormoran byplay in this novel - some things seemed a bit strained and overemphasized in their interactions but overall they worked well together as developing characters. I DO have a pretty massive problem with something revealed in Robin's background, but since the novel was only published this month I'll leave off on specific criticisms of plot points until I reread it so that I can avoid spoilers.

And here's where I've got a problem: It's really fucking hard to review a mystery novel without spoiling the mystery. So I'll leave it here and say that it was a very fun read that I raced through, looking forward to figuring out whodunnit alongside the characters. I'd recommend it for sure, but I'd warn anyone coming in to it cold that it's pretty impressively violent and to approach with caution if you're sensitive to that sort of thing.

     - Alli

Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil. Mulholland Books. New York: New York. 2015.

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