Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Lethal White

Reading Status Updates

20  of 1350 Minutes

Slight change of plan … I guess I have a row to catch up on after all now!  (4th row on my card.)

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215 of 1350 Minutes

“‘I’ve heard … that there may be photographs.’

‘Photographs,” repeated Strike.

“Winn can’t have them, of course.  If he had it would be all over.  But he might be able to find a way of getting hold of them, yes.’  He shoved the last piece of tarte in his mouth, then said, ‘Of course, there’s a chance the photographs don’t incriminate me.  There are no distinguishing marks, so far as I’m aware.’

Strike’s imagination frankly boggled.  He yearned to ask, ‘Distinguishing marks on what, Minister?’, but refrained.”

Bwahahaha — don’t tell me Rowling has somehow anticipated l’affaire champignon (mushroom)?  Well, of sorts, anyway?  Not that Britain doesn’t have a rich history of its own as far as these, um, situations are concerned …

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1000 of 1350 Minutes

“Geraint was representing me at that event and it will go the way it always goes in the press when it all comes out.  It will have been my fault, all of it.  Because men’s crimes are always ours in the final analysis, aren’t they, Mr. Strike?  Ultimate responsibility always lies with the woman — who should have stopped it.  Who should have acted.  Who must have known.  Your failings are really our failings, aren’t they?  Because the proper role of the woman is carer, and there is nothing lower in this whole world than a bad mother.”

Well, well, Joanne.

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1025 of 1350 Minutes

Well, good for you, Robin.  This was long overdue.  I hope this time you’re going to really go through with it.

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1350 of 1350 Minutes

Wow.  What a book.


Totilas

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Addendum:

On BookLikes, I had the following exchange with my friend Moonlight Reader regarding Robin’s story arc in book 3 of the series (Career of Evil) and book 4 (Lethal White):

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
When you were praising Robin in your review for book 2, that made me really curious how you were going to respond to this book. Because you’re not the only one who wanted to slap her more than a few times in this one … I spent the better part of the book being furious at her. — That said, I never thought of Michael as a suspect … just a major irritation (and a completely unnecessary complication in Robin’s life).

Moonlight Reader
My thinking of Matthew as a suspect was extremely brief, and didn’t make any sense. It was just one of things where I was like “could it be Shanker?” “could it be the police officer?” “could it be Matthew…” and then I immediately rejected it.

I was mad at Robin, but I can’t deny that her behavior represents a certain reality – young women get carried along into first marriages that they know will be a disaster pretty regularly, because they can’t figure out how to jump off the train that has left the station. [….]

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
There’s no question that Rowling has RL down pat in her characters — first and foremost, both Robin and Strike (and now I *really* want to see your response to book 4, in turn). I was chiefly mad at Robin because of her irresponsible behavior on the job — allowances for past history included; still, her whole set of expectations of Strike, of herself, of what she thought was due to her and what she could accomplish were so wildly off the mark and, more importantly, a serious risk to the whole operation, and to both her and Strike’s lives. But, yeah, of course I was yelling at her to get rid of Michael as well.

[…] And you’re right of course; there’s frequently a whole lot of (well-intentioned, but in fact fatal) social pressure going on in these types of situations. The way Rowling portrayed that was part of what I really liked about this book.

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Career of Evil

Anger Management


Soooo … turns out I listened to book 3 almost straight on the heels of book 2 after all, because I’ve had some fairly major anger and sadness issues to go through lately, and nothing helps in that process like a really dark-hued book, right?

As a matter of fact, it turns out that yours truly wasn’t the only person in need of some healthy dose of anger management here.  I knew going in that this is a serial killer novel (that much is clear from page one); actually, though, the person ultimately revealed as the killer is only one of several seriously sick and violent bastards, all of whom have a major personal gripe with Strike and therefore pretty much auto-suggest themselves as suspects — I mean, who other than someone pretty obviously out to make Strike’s (and Robin’s) lives hell would send them body parts and go stalking Robin, intent on ultimately killing her, too?  (No spoiler here btw.; this, too, is obvious right from the beginning.)

But speaking of Robin, in this installment she is having to deal with some pretty substantial anger management of her own in turn, and she’s unfortunately not doing all that brilliantly … in fact, for the better part of the novel she’s behaving more like a sulking teenager than like a grown up woman.  We learn a lot about her background here, and about the reasons why she gave up university and kept on clinging to Matthew, her boyfriend of nine years, despite his obvious dislike of her work as Strike’s assistant — and up to a point I can empathize with her insecurities (she’s a rape victim and developed agoraphobia as a consequence, which it took her a full year to overcome and even so much as venture out again at all).

However, I have decidedly more of a problem empathizing with her for throwing a major fit every time Strike doesn’t go to the end of the world to treat her as a full-fledged partner — and for her coming within an inch of fatally jeopardizing both her own and Strike’s lives, not to mention his work, on several separate occasions as a result; not least towards the very end.  For an army / MP veteran with 15+ years of experience on the job as an investigator to accord that kind of equality to an untrained temp secretary who’d started in his office barely over a year earlier would be a ludicrous expectation under any circumstances, but even more so after she had repeatedly failed to follow his orders, thinking (wrongly) that she knew better, with disastrous consequences every single time. And no, Robin, you don’t get to chalk that one up to your experience in university, horrific as it doubtless was.  Because this isn’t a matter of anyone denying you your basic, inviolate human dignity — it’s a matter of (un)realistic expectations, plain and simple; and if you did have even the most marginal claim to the position to which you aspire on the job, this would be the first thing you’d realize.  I don’t doubt that your experience created major insecurity issues, but if those are truly still overwhelming to this degree, Strike is even more justified than he is, anyway, on the basis of your lack of training and repeated misconduct, in not treating you as an equal partner.  For him to be able to do that — and trust you with the blind assurance that true partnership in a dangerous job such as the pursuit of violent criminals would have to entail — you would have had to demonstrate that such trust on his part would be justified.  You, however, have demonstrated the precise opposite.

And I can empathize even less with Robin for her petty bit of revenge on Strike at the very end, getting married to Matthew after all — not because she’s determined she really loves him and he is the man in her life now and forever, but simply to get back at Strike for sacking her … for what had been her most blatant act of stupidity and professional misconduct yet.  I hope by the time we get to the beginning of the next book, which it turns out is due to be published sometime soon now, she’s got a grip on herself.  And if her marriage had gone to hell in a hand basket in the interim, I wouldn’t feel particularly sorry for her — you don’t marry for revenge, period.  Even less so a guy who you’ve realized is the wrong guy for you to begin with and to whom you’re only clinging for sentimental reasons now (as you’re very well aware, too).

So anyway, minus one star for Robin’s temper tantrums, but full marks, as always, for the writing and for Strike’s character development — as well as for introducing us to a guy named Shanker, who I very much hope is going to make a reappearance or two in the future.  The serial killer plot isn’t of the ingenious, never-seen-before-new variety, but more than merely competently executed, and I’ve also had quite a bit of fun touring Northern England and the Scottish borderland with Strike (and, in part, Robin) on the hunt for the killer.

 

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Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): The Silkworm

Jacobean Revenge Tragedy Has Got Nothing on This


Jesus H. Christ, where did that come from???   Oh man, talk about “leagues from Harry Potter” … more like, in a different galaxy.  And I mean content-, not quality-wise.

It’s no coincidence that every single chapter of this book is prefaced by a quote from a different 16th / 17th century revenge tragedy: This is not a book for the faint of heart, dealing as it does with (1) a seriously twisted, depraved book [whose content is laid out in some detail] and (2) that book’s author, who weeks after having disappeared is found murdered, with his now rotting corpse having been made the sick centerpiece of a [graphically described] scene that exactly replicates the end of his final book.

I have to confess it was at this point that I almost stopped listening, and it was only the author’s s skill as a writer that pulled me back into the story and made me care about what happened next at all.

In terms of the technique(s) of crime writing and character development, this is even better than the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling; and I admit one other factor that kept me glued to the book until the end was the very skillfully unraveled backstory of Strike and his ex-fiancée Charlotte, or rather, their final breakup.  If there had been one thing that had left me mildly unsatisfied at the end of the first book, it was not having learned what precisely was behind Charlotte’s explosive exit from Strike’s office, with which the first book opens, and the specific reason for which — and the reason for their final dispute and breakup — was at best hinted at in book 1.  Well, curiosity satisfied now, and boy is it ever. — Now if Robin would finally get rid of Michael … (That being said, I’m not sure I want Strike to be her next boyfriend, even though that seems to be where we are headed.  They work increasingly well together as a team, but Strike is carrying a heck of a lot of baggage, and I’m not sure at all that their professional relationship would benefit from a change of dynamics that would bring all of that baggage AND emotions into the mix as well.)

So, 4 stars with a golden ribbon on top for the writing and character development (not only of Strike and Robin, but also of this story’s supporting cast of murder suspects and their respective entourage), and extra kudo points for the sheer chutzpah of ditching every last expectation that readers coming to this book straight from Harry Potter might be bringing, and for taking a full-blown, unflinching dive in the opposite direction instead.  That self-same latter dive is, however, also the reason why I’m subtracting a half star from my overall rating.  It’s going to take some time and a considerable amount of mind bleach to rid my brain of the images of that murder scene … and the imagery of the [fictional] book inspiring it.

 

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Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): The Cuckoo’s Calling

J.K. Rowling Does “Mystery”


… and really, is there anything she can’t write?

This may not be the most ingenious of plots (supermodel with “issues” falls to her death from the balcony of her high rise apartment; after the police have declared her death a probable suicide and closed the case, her brother shows up at the office of a down-and-out P.I. with a somewhat checkered past and pleads with him to reinvestigate; P.I. has a new temp secretary who gradually and reluctantly becomes his sidekick), but as always, it’s all in the execution, and here, Rowling delivers on all fronts; from tone of voice to attitudes to every other aspect that’s indispensable to creating well-rounded characters … and what a cast of characters she’s come up with, too.  She has an impeccable ear for dialogue, for the snazzy, street-wise language that few mysteries can do without, especially those published today — all the more those set, like this one, in the demi-monde of fashion, film, rock (music, meth / cocaine, and whisky-on-the), modeling, moguls, and money both old and new — and for endowing her characters with entirely credible human emotions.  All of her characters, that is, regardless how important they are to the story.  Even today, there are few mystery writers who manage that sort of feat.

And honestly, can you possibly think of a greater name for a protagonist, a run-down P.I. at that, than Cormoran Strike?

Count me in for book 2 of the series soon — I wonder what took me so long to get to it in the first place.

Oh, and never mind that she published this under a male pen name (nice try, Joanne) … the cat was out of the bag within weeks, if not days IIRC, and I am SO counting this book towards the “R” square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.

 

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