A number of years ago when the J.K. Rowling/Harry Potter phenomenon was on the rise, I haughtily told a very well-read friend of mine that I was so OVER hearing all about Harry Potter that I simply would NEVER EVER read a Harry Potter book.
I recall that she laughed and told me, “I can understand your frustration about all of the hoopla, but I’m here to tell you that you are really missing out if you don’t read the Harry Potter books.”
Well, that sort of stopped me in my tracks because I respect her opinion a great deal when it comes to book recommendations. Still, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I have yet to read a Harry Potter book or see a Harry Potter movie. My grandchildren, however, love them all.
There are simply too many books to read and not enough time.
But a couple of years ago, J.K. Rowling came out with the first book in a new adult mystery series, writing under the nom de plume of Robert Galbraith. I eagerly read The Cuckoo’s Calling and immediately understood why people enjoy Rowling’s books.
Because I enjoyed her first in the series so much, I eagerly awaited the second in the series, which was finally released a couple of months ago. The Silkworm took off where The Cuckoo’s Calling left off.
The novels’ protagonist is Cormoran Strike, a British private investigator. Strike lost the lower part of one of his legs in Afghanistan, and his constant pain and frustration add interesting layers to his personality. In the first novel, Strike hires an assistant, a young woman, Robin, who turned down more lucrative jobs so that she could follow her calling to be a private detective.
I find Galbraith’s detective Strike so interesting because he isn’t the stereotypical main character at all. He’s not particularly attractive. His chronic pain makes him often unpleasant and angry. But he is stubborn and smart and committed to becoming a successful detective. The fact that he is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star (who he has only met twice in his life) makes him marginally interesting to the press, adding a little flavor to the novel’s mix.
The novels are somewhat longer than most mysteries that I read. However, I find Galbreath’s writing to be such that I really can’t put the books down. The words, though many, don’t seem extraneous. Instead, they move the book along, provide context, and make the characters seem real. The stories themselves are interesting. In The Silkworm, Strike is hired by the wife of a semi-famous author who is missing. The author was on the brink of releasing a story with characters not-so-subtly fashioned after real people in his publishing world, and the book could damage the reputations of many. As a result, many suspects.
Though the ending wasn’t particularly startling, the journey towards the ending was a terrific ride. I love a good mystery, and this is definitely that. But even more, it is an example of really good writing and story and character development at its best. You don’t have to like mysteries to enjoy these books. And the good news is that she plans on writing at least seven Cormoran Strike novels.
Maybe I will find time to read Harry Potter yet.
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