Five years ago, if you had asked my opinion on J. K. Rowling I would have scoffed and said I don’t read over-hyped children’s fiction about witches and wizards. Fast-forward a few years, I have eaten my humble pie, and read everything fictional written by Rowling. The credit goes to the writer: her constant ability to reinvent herself, and her unusual (and perhaps not deliberate) manner of creating interest in the reader’s mind about what she puts out. While The Casual Vacancy is probably my favorite of all her written works, I am happy that Rowling is going back to her roots as a series writer. She is incredibly talented at weaving stories together that span over a few years while the books hold well individually also.
Cormoran Strike is no Harry Potter, though. The man is in his 30’s and battles real demons that cannot be done away with a spell. Instead of a magic wand, Strike has a prosthesis for the leg he lost in war. When we are introduced to Strike in the first novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, he has just ended a sixteen year relationship and is desperately trying to make ends meet with his struggling detective business. A mistake from the temping agency brings Robin to his office as an assistant and like a good omen, Strike also gets the case of a model who allegedly jumped to her death from her balcony. Lula Landry’s brother, however, thinks this was not a suicide and hires Strike to find the killer. Eager to get a client that will pay him well, Strike agrees to find the killer of a case that has already been shut down by the police as a suicide. The novel unravels into the world of fashion and the rich, and Lula’s own ghosts and struggles that drove her to her death. While there’s a proper mystery at the heart of the novel, there’s also enough of a human touch with Strike’s engaging, haunted, and lonely central character, and the lovable Robin.
The Silkworm is a more gripping and convoluted follow-up in the series. This time, Strike is hired by the wife of writer Owen Quine, who is missing. While tracking the writer down, Strike finds Quine brutally murdered and his purpose changes to finding the killer. Rowling dives into the world of publishing and literature – filled with obnoxious writers, dominating agents, and calculating publishers. Everyone is a suspect! Robin, in this novel, gets more of a spotlight, much to my delight. While parts of the mystery unravel at a snail’s pace, Rowling is still successful in keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. The payoff with the mystery is much better, in my opinion, than the first book.
I like Rowling as a writer, but I do see her flaws as well (which are minor irritants more than anything else!). Her success, for me, lies in creating characters that you identify with. Even her minor characters are thoughtfully created. The writing in itself may not be a trailblazer, but she is a master at making memorable characters. Eventually, I hope she breaks away from using alliterative names for many of them. And I also hope that her editors begin to use the Oxford comma. But, in spite of this, I look forward to the next adventure of Cameron Strick.
On a completely different note – I am so pleased with all the reading I managed to squeeze in this year! I am a freaking slow reader, but I did well, if I may say so myself. Here’s hoping 2015 will bring more of the same! Happy New Year, everyone!