It all starts with the disappearance of an attention-seeking author who has just written a book mocking and betraying most of his acquaintances, and, of course, he is dead. Horribly dead. Disgustingly dead. And between his last book, strange wife, devoted lover, successful rival, embittered agent, boss, fans and a range of other intriguing characters Cormoran Strike has got to find a killer.
So, I probably wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t by JK Rowling. I quite enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, but wouldn’t necessarily have bought the sequel, and definitely not as a hardback. But it’s her, and I did.
As a mystery, the book is pretty intriguing. I wasn’t particularly trying to work out how the solution would come together or indeed whodunnit, and it was surprising enough – though anti-climactic. I wasn’t hugely suspicious of anyone, and nor did there seem to be a particularly sinister feel around, despite some real gruesome scenes and threats. If anything, the mystery seemed a vehicle to talk about the other things in the novel, as follow:
As a sleuth character, Cormoran Strike is… interesting. Ish. I don’t really get him, and I feel as though after two books I should, particularly as we delve into his private life a lot. He is 35, rather large, with fuzzy hair and a prosthetic leg. He’s grumpy, meticulously tidy and apparently extremely attractive to women, which I can’t quite work out. I like him enough, and the relationship between he and Robin, his assistant, is fun and interesting, but I’m not quite on his side yet.
Like the book before, the prose contains fairly damning critique of the world of fame and, now, publishing. Even fans who send pictures to the author are mocked, which is surely a little callous for JK who presumably receives a truckload of pictures of Hermione before breakfast. She also continues to prove to us (as in The Casual Vacancy) that though she wrote Harry Potter she does know how to swear, and all about drugs and sex and the darker side of humanity.
I did enjoy London as a setting, particularly as I live here, and the characters were painted skilfully, and the prose is, of course, very readable. The quotes starting chapters annoyed me, as they do, though I think they all come from revenge plays, which fit the styles that are referenced in the book. The device of a book within a book was clever too, though I read the extracts too quickly (they were a bit graphic for my liking) and I think missed out on some things that would have been useful.
It was a good book. You know, pretty good. Worth a read, and it would be a pretty gripping holiday read. Not the best crime fiction I’ve read ever, not the worst. Worth a read, but probably not a re-read. And probably not the enormous hardback that I’ve now got to find space for on my shelves.