On a semi-recent road trip, I stopped at a bookshop and splurged on a few books, including the rest of this series. I already had The Silkworm hanging out with my Potter collection, but I didn’t want to read these out of order. I decided instead to reserve these mysteries for October, and I thought it would be more fun to do one single post with reviews of each book- a triple feature- than one book at a time from the series.
Throughout the series, Cormoran Strike is trying to get his life together after a breakup with his longtime on-and-off again girlfriend, and post-return to civilian status after an honorary discharge from Afghanistan military duty, in which he lost a leg to a mine. He goes into private detective work, and as he’s struggling to get a client base and pay off his debts. He also takes on a temporary assistant named Robin, whom Strike finds has a strong aptitude for detective work… and who is also very attractive.
In The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike has been asked by a childhood acquaintance, John, to help find out the truth behind an apparent suicide of his supermodel sister, Lula Landry. Known as the Cuckoo among friends, she’s had her battles with depression, but John is sure that her death was murder, and he wants Strike to solve the case. As Cormoran investigates, he and Robin find that they make a pretty good team, to the disapproval of Robin’s fiancé. When Strike finally reveals the killer, it’s a plot twist the left me jaw-dropped.
The Silkworm starts off with Strike’s risen fame post the high status, celebrity supermodel case. He’s finally paid off his debts and has decided to retain Robin, even though funds would be tight. He’s also taken on a new case- a writer has gone missing, and his wife has no idea where. Cormoran uses the man’s manuscript to help him connect the people who might know his whereabouts, only to find that he’s too late to save the man’s life. Now he knows there is a very skilled murderer on the loose, and even Cormoran isn’t safe. The worst part- his amputated leg and prosthesis is literally hindering him from running away after an attack, leaving him vulnerable. Luckily, Robin is able to come to his aid more than once. But when the case is almost closed, it’s Robin who needs rescuing.
Finally making it on to Career of Evil, Strike and Robin have just recovered equilibrium from their last case when a severed leg is delivered to their office- a message for Strike from a man whom he’d incarcerated in the past. Strike can only think of three men who might be the killer, but hunting them down has proven difficult. These men are professional scum, and one of them is on a murder streak so time is of the essence. The press is all over the highly publicized crimes, which has put Strike in a bad light. His business is struggling because nobody wants to work with a high profile detective that’s receiving threats on his life. On top of the chaos, there’s been a lot of tension between Strike and Robin. Robin is getting close to her wedding day, and though Strike is seeing another woman, he’s still struggling with the idea of Robin being married to a man who doesn’t support her talent for detective work. In addition, he’s gotten severely protective of her, now that she’s become a target during the investigation. Robin, on the other hand, isn’t as concerned about the wedding as she is about the connection between this crime and the one committed against her many years ago.
Overall, the Cormoran Strike series is entertaining, loaded with action, and just revealing enough to keep the reader intrigued but guessing. However, I noticed that the beginnings of all the novels are quite slow, so it took a while for the novels to pick up there pace, though it does get better as the series continues. The books are also rather long, with each novel over 450 pages, loaded with detail. However, when they do pick up pace, the story is attention grabbing.
I can easily understand why Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) decided to write under a pseudonym, because these books are definitely not meant to be associated with her better known works. There is a lot of adult content (of the swearing/cursing, sexual nature type), and the murders are sussed out in a graphic way- which you would expect from a crime novel but not from the renowned children’s author. The writing style is still fantastic, allotting imagery and humor that puts your right alongside Strike. I have to say, I did imagine Cormoran as a non-magical Mad Eye Moody, in his gruff, no-nonsense manner. I think fans of that character will appreciate this series.
As much as I enjoyed the reads, they didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m not a huge mystery/crime buff, but I’ve read quite a few in recent years and this series didn’t stack up in comparison to the ones I’ve been completely absorbed in. I think my favorite of the series is Career of Evil, mostly because this one is the most action packed, the main characters story lines are fully fleshed out, and the conclusion gives the reader a lot of satisfaction. I’d still recommend them all though, as they are still very entertaining- especially if you like a grumpy lead character that you can’t help but find endearing by the end.
*EDIT 10.10.18: So I just learned there is one more book in this series, Lethal White– so I’ll have to tackle that one next year!