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Review by Tracey Sinclair.
The first novel in the Cormoran Strike series was overshadowed by the media furore when ‘Robert Galbraith’ was unhappily outed as a pseudonym for none other than JK Rowling. But in the fuss over who knew, who told and whether it even mattered, what was too often lost was the fact that The Cuckoo’s Calling was a solid, seriously enjoyable crime thriller which, in private detective Cormoran Strike and his resourceful assistant Robin, introduced a couple of original and compelling characters who inhabit a beautifully evoked London landscape.
This enterprising, if mismatched, pair returns in this second Galbraith outing, which is every bit as page turningly readable as the first. Galbraith’s murder mysteries are old fashioned in the best sense, a breath of fresh air for those of us who are a little tired of contemporary crime novels which imply there’s a serial killer lurking round every corner. As in The Cuckoo’s Calling, the focus is on one death and the narrowing down of a pool of colourful suspects, here drawn from the eccentric world of publishing, which Rowling obviously knows well enough to affectionately skewer (though indie writers may chafe at her characterisation of the breed as barely literate fantasists writing erotic nonsense – that EL James success really stung, eh, Joanne?). While the murder here is more graphic and gothic than in the first novel, the plot avoids so many of the implausible twists and coincidences of the modern crime book and is a chunky, satisfying read.
Despite displaying a talent for deft, elegant prose that may surprise those who dismissed the Harry Potter books as clunkily written, there are instances where the story falls into cliché (for an overweight, dishevelled, partially disabled detective whose wiry hair gave him the school nickname ‘pube head’, Strike nevertheless has an impressive hit rate with improbably beautiful women). And while his assistant, Robin, is never reduced to a supporting character – her interior life is as fleshed out as her boss’s – the fact that whatever conflict arises between them could be easily solved if they had an honest conversation can start to grate. But these are small niggles in a series which has, in only two novels, already established itself as one of the best additions to the crime genre in recent years.
Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor, writer and indie author. Her latest book is A Vampire in Edinburgh and can be purchased here.