Friday Book Whimsy: Troubled Blood

Cormoran Strike is one of my favorite fictional detectives, because he seems very genuine and realistic. Strike is the protagonist in Richard Galbraith’s gritty London mystery series. Galbraith, of course, is a pen name for renown author J.K. Rowlings of Harry Potter fame. The Strike series, of which Troubled Blood is number five, is a very different sort of book, featuring no wizards or fantasy. Instead, Strike approaches his life with a grim determination, and his life isn’t always easy.

He is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star who paid no attention to Strike until he became a minor celebrity for his detective work. He served in the military in the Middle East, and lost part of a leg in the process. He faces the pain involved in his prothesis every day.

In Troubled Blood, Strike is visiting his dying aunt in Cornwall when he is approached by a young woman who asks him to find her mother. Strike is intrigued when he learns that the mother — Margot Bamborough — has been missing for 40 years, and was thought to have been murdered by a serial killer. It is Strike’s first cold case, and he and his assistant Robin tackle it head on.

It isn’t easy, because the police detective who first had the case had literally lost his mind while trying to find Bamborough. The files make little sense. But using Sherlock Holmsian skills by both Cormoran and Robin, they come closer than anyone ever has.

The author presents Robin as a true partner to Cormoran, matching him in prowness and intuition. There is a lingering love interest in one another that is intriguing rather than distracting. It will be fun to see how Galbraith carries this forward.

I enjoyed this book so very much. It’s lengthy and meaty and fairly disturbing. But it was one of my favorite detective stories this year.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Career of Evil

searchI wonder why authors choose to write under pseudonyms. Perhaps it’s to avoid having the reader approach a novel with preexisting expectations. I don’t know. J. K. Rowling – the author of the Harry Potter series – didn’t call me and ask me what I thought before she began writing a new series under the name Robert Galbraith. The result is that every time I talk about one of the books in the Cormoran Strike series, I feel compelled to remind you of the real name of the author. So consider yourself reminded.

And I hope I have to do it 10 or 11 more times, because the Cormoran Strike series is so well worth reading. Galbraith (wink, wink) is an amazing writer, it’s true. But I mostly enjoy this series because I find the characters so, well, interesting and realistic.

Strike, the protagonist, is not your typical private detective. The author’s descriptions call to mind a most unattractive and unappealing man, overly large, unattractively dark and hairy and infinitely grouchy. He’s grouchy because the prosthesis that replaces one of his legs is always extremely uncomfortable. My heart goes out to him in every book.

Career of Evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike series, begins with Strike’s likeable secretary/assistant Robin receiving an unexpected package which turns out to be a woman’s severed leg. Strike immediately recognizes that the person who sent the horrible package is trying to send the message to him that those closest to him are not safe. He immediately isolates four people in his life who he believes evil enough and with enough hatred of him to do such a thing.

His hunt for the responsible party makes up the bulk of the story. The author takes a bit of an unusual turn this time by including chapters told from the point of view of the killer. I found that to be creepy but somewhat annoying. The killer sounded too much like Buffalo Bill (the real bad guy in Silence of the Lambs, something often forgotten because of the horror of Hannibal Lector’s presence). There was an awful lot of talk about cutting off limbs and pieces of his victims. Thankfully, Galbraith never has us experience an actual atrocity.

The best part of this book was that the reader got the opportunity to get to know Robin (Strike’s assistant) much better and to see her grow as a character. The worst part of this book, as with the other two books in my opinion, is that Galbraith uses way too many words. The books, I believe, are overly long. Even though his/her writing is extraordinary, I believe it takes too long to get to the parts that are really interesting.

Nevertheless, I am a devoted fan of Cormoran Strike, and will never, ever miss one of his adventures.

Here is a link to the book.