Take A Peek Book Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

My Thoughts:

Yet another tense, tight murder mystery from the pen of Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J. K. Rowling… who obviously can do no wrong when she sits down to write a book.

In this 4th book in the Cormoran Strike series, Cormoran and Robin are both more successful and more troubled when the story opens. Book #3, Career of Evil, ended at a wedding… and Lethal White picks up right at the very same wedding, showing us all sorts of consequences and aftereffects that we could only previously imagine. The tensions each carries following the wedding spill over into their professional lives, as they deal with their respective relationship partners while trying to build their detective business now that they’ve become incredibly famous (thanks to the events of Career of Evil).

The mystery in Lethal White is two-fold, kicked off by the ravings of a schizophrenic man who finds his way into Strike’s office, and then deepened when the firm is hired to investigate a case of high-politics blackmail, which soon turns into a murder investigation. There’s danger and red herrings galore, and Cormoran and Robin are at their detective-y best as they charge off to investigate, interrogate, and stir up oodles of trouble for the rich and famous.

At 650+ pages, Lethal White is a BIG book, and the plot threatens to collapse under the weight of its endless twists and turns. The convoluted schemes and interconnected alibis and misleading clues keep things interesting, but I felt at times as if the story might have benefited from straight lines occasionally. The coincidence meter is on high alert in this book, as the double-mystery is awfully conveniently interwoven. I had to suspend my disbelief big-time over Cormoran’s powers of deductive reasoning and his ability to draw connections out of seemingly thin air.

At the same time, Cormoran and Robin are a great duo, working well together and playing off each other’s strengths. The complications of their personal lives make for a diverting and engaging side theme throughout the book, and is the piece I’ll be most anxiously awaiting in book #5, whenever that might be coming.

I’m really loving this series, and can’t wait to see where the story goes. Meanwhile, I’m delighted that I watched seasons 1 – 3 of the TV adaption, C B Strike, over the summer. It was terrific way to get a refresher on the story thus far, getting me totally ready to dive into reading Lethal White. Highly recommended!

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The details:

Title: Lethal White
Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: September 18, 2018
Length: 656 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library

The delights of summer TV: Sparkling nails, warring brothels, and a severed leg

It’s summer! Whatcha watching?

I’m having oodles of fun binge-watching TV… and I’m totally in love with three shows that are ridiculously fun.

First up: Claws on TNT

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the glory of Desna, the nail salon owner turned money launderer turned Dixie Mafia kingpin (queenpin)… who always looks completely fabulous, whether sitting poolside or driving her Maserati or breaking into a drug-smuggling warehouse. The show’s true heart is the nail salon and the friendship of the women who work there with Desna. They’re hilarious, ridiculous, outrageous, over the top, and also, surprisingly moving.

Desna got into a life of crime reluctantly, needing a way to support her autistic brother and working toward her dream of establishing a more upscale salon. Pill-pushing clinics, gun-toting criminals, and plain bad luck have gotten in her way, but I keep rooting for Desna to free herself from all the crazy criminal shenanigans and get back to that amazing nail art.

I absolutely did not expect that this would be a show for me, but after much prodding from a couple of co-workers, I gave it a try, and I was hooked. You can’t take it seriously, but if you want escapist summer fun, Claws is top of the list.

 

And then there’s my more recent discovery: Harlots on Hulu

Yes, it’s about harlots. 18th century London prostitutes, two competing madams bitterly at war with one another, the “culls” (customers) who frequent the brothels, and the overall rotten condition of being a woman at a time when women had no power over their own lives. The show is written, directed, and produced by women, and it shows: The emphasis is not on bodies and sex, but on the women characters’ minds, desires, frustrations, and yearnings. It shows the limited options women had to control their own lives, and paints a pretty grim picture of what sex workers experience each day.

And yet, it’s a remarkably fun and entertaining show! Visually, Harlots is a treat. We alternate between seeing the mucky streets and filthy dress hems with ogling the gowns and wigs of the upper class (and the brothels that cater to the rich and noble). Oh, those wigs! Can we talk about the wigs for a minute? Powdered, sky-high, utterly glorious… between the wigs and the costumes, this show is just a feast for the eyes. Add in a compelling plot and terrific acting, and you’ve got some idea of why I’m obsessing over this show right now.

 

Finally, I’m loving the hell out of C B Strike on Cinemax:

And this is where the severed leg comes in.

C B Strike is a TV show that crept in while I wasn’t looking! I’d heard that a TV adaptation of the J. K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith) detective series was in the works, but had no idea it had been completed and released already! Three seasons are all available on Cinemax, each season covering the plot of one of the three books in the series. Season 1 is The Cuckoo’s Calling (murdered model), shown in 3 episodes. Seasons 2 and 3 are two episodes each, covering The Silkworm (murdered writer) and Career of Evil (body parts by special delivery). All are excellent, in large part because of the two excellent actors in the lead roles of Cormoran and Robin. They have great chemistry, and Cormoran especially is just what I imagined from the books.

The plots of the books are really dense and packed with detail, so the pacing of the TV series took a bit of getting used to. They manage to squeeze in enough to make the storie make sense without getting bogged down. It actually amazes me that they were able to condense the plot threads and clues enough to work in so few episodes — but the show is definitely a success.

Added bonus: It has been a while since I read Career of Evil, but now I’m back up to speed and completely ready to continue reading about Cormoran and Robin when book #4, Lethal White, comes out this fall!

 

Those are my top three… but I’m also really excited about the new season of Killjoys, and plan to dive into Castle Rock this week too.

What are you watching this summer?

Take A Peek Book Review: Career of Evil

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Career of Evil

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

My Thoughts:

Does it still need to be explained that Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J. K. Rowling? Are we all clear by now?

Good. Moving on.

The Cormoran Strike series keeps getting better and better! In this third installment, the murderer strikes particularly close to home. As Cormoran and Robin sift through the clues, they bring up a host of nightmares from each of their pasts. Meanwhile, all the attention means that their business is on the brink of failure thanks to all the negative publicity, and the threat posed by the unknown murderer is scary and unpredictable. Neither of them are safe, but neither wants to back down.

Meanwhile, we get occasional chapters told from the psycho killer’s point of view, and boy, are they disturbing! His obsession and cold-blooded determination to kill and mutilate is just horrific to read, especially as it’s all so matter of fact.

Beyond the murder mystery, which is complicated to the extreme, one of the delights of this book is seeing the relationship between Cormoran and Robin continue to unfold and deepen. Their trust in one another leads them to open up in ways that they haven’t previously, even as their unacknowledged feelings and fears lead to misunderstandings, anger, and near disaster for their partnership.

In general, I enjoyed Career of Evil very much, perhaps even more than the second book in the series, which just struck me as overdone in some ways. My one quibble is the same quibble I often have with J. K. Rowling’s writing: She seems to take inordinate amounts of pleasure in describing unsavory or sad sack characters as being just completely repulsive physically, with stringy hair or dandruff or body odor or any number of other unattractive qualities:

“The man on the door was squat and neckless… ”

“Tempest, whose black bob had certainly been dyed and who wore thick, square black-rimmed spectacles, was his physical opposite: pale, dumpy and doughy, her small, deep-set eyes like raisins in a bun.”

“He turned his head and Strike saw scalp shining through the thinning roots…”

“Eyebrows as thick and bushy as tiger moth caterpillars overhung her puffy eyes.”

It gets to be too much after a while, in my humble opinion.

Actually, I had one more quibble with Career of Evil: The tiny detail that finally enables Cormoran to have the major breakthrough and solve the mystery is… a tiny detail, so trivial that I find it close to impossible to believe that this man would have noticed and identified this teensy element and have the entire solution hinge upon that discovery. The rest of the mystery’s resolution worked for me, but that one thing — no.

Other than that, though, I’m really having a great time reading the Cormoran Strike books, and hope there are many more to come. This book’s mystery is solved by the end, but the door is still open for more adventures and complications for Cormoran and Robin and their partnership.

Added bonus: It’s so exciting to know that BBC is developing a Cormoran Strike Mysteries TV show!

Finally, a reading tip: This is a big, densely plotted book with (it feels like) a thousand characters and backstories to keep straight. The lives and details of the various suspects can easily blend together, and I found myself constantly having to flip backwards and forwards in the book to keep straight which clue went with which suspect. Keeping it all in order is part of the challenge and the fun — but I’d recommend saving this book for a time when you know you’ll have minimal distractions and plenty of concentration!

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The details:

Title: Career of Evil
Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication date: October 20, 2015
Length: 489 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: Career of Evil

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

My most wished-for book this week is:

Career of Evil

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
(expected US publication date: October 20, 2015)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

Ooh, ooh, ooh! A new Cormoran Strike book! Can’t wait!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: The Silkworm

Here’s a quick look at the 2nd book in Robert Galbraith’s detective series:

(Okay, we all know the author is J. K. Rowling, right?)

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)Synopsis (Goodreads):

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

J. K. Rowling made quite a stir when news of her authorship of the pseudonymously published mystery book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was leaked last year. Rowling said in several interviews that she wanted the experience of being a new writer, outside the glare of the intense media scrutiny that follows her every move. The Cuckoo’s Calling was Rowling’s 2nd book for adults (after The Casual Vacancy), written in her post-Potter years — and once author Robert Galbraith was revealed to be Rowling, sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling skyrocketed. I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling quite a bit; you can read my review here.

In this second Galbraith book (of a reportedly 7-book series), we pick right back up with detective Cormoran Strike, a truly wonderful character and probably the best element of these books. Strike is a big man, fearsome to behold, despite his missing leg stemming from a war injury suffered during his army service in Afghanistan. Strike is smart, obstinate, and unswerving once on the scent of a clue. He makes enemies fairly easily, and has gained notoriety in the wake of the high-profile murder he solved in The Cuckoo’s Calling. He’s also the illegitimate son of a superstar rocker, and the press loves to dwell on all the sordid details that Strike would just as soon ignore.

In the months since his brush with fame, Strike finds himself in high demand to solve cases for the rich and powerful, usually involving infidelity and general skeeviness, and perhaps that’s why he feels both pity and interest when sad-sack Leonora Quine shows up in his office asking for his help. At first, it’s a missing person case, as Leonora’s author husband has disappeared — and unlike his previous periods of hiding out and sulking, he hasn’t shown up again. As Strike begins to dig, he discovers that Owen Quine is a not terribly successful writer whose newest unpublished work skewers allies and enemies alike. There are a lot of powerful people who’d like to make sure this book never sees the light of day — and once Quine’s mutilated body is discovered, all of the book’s subjects become murder suspects.

Plot-wise, The Silkworm teeters on the edge of being overly complicated. There are dates, times, objects, motives, and secrets to unravel, on top of which, the plot synopsis for Quine’s book is a seemingly coded key to each of the main players and their hidden shames and scandals. My main complaint about The Silkworm has to do with Quine’s writing. Honestly, it’s every bit as terrible as it’s supposed to be, and his book is so heavily symbolic that only the most inside of insiders could possibly have any clue who the people being lambasted might be. I just couldn’t quite buy the idea that this awful manuscript by a washed-up, one-hit-wonder of an author could generate that much attention and kick off such a publishing world crisis.

The Silkworm is densely plotted and moves forward at an incredibly fast pace — so even though it felt a bit more convoluted than strictly necessary, I still couldn’t look away. When Strike finally solves the murder, we more or less just have to take his word for it. Yes, it’s all explained, but I’m not sure that I believe that even the brilliant Cormoran Strike could really make the intuitive leap necessary to put it all together.

Still, I enjoyed spending more time with Cormoran Strike and his terrific assistant Robin Ellacott quite a bit. They’re both fantastic characters, and the book is at its most engaging when we follow their interplay and their own inner lives and struggles. The murder mystery is twisted and suspenseful, but eventually it starts to feel like a bit too much. Full disclosure: I’m not much of a mystery fan in general, so my opinion of the case and its resolution is probably colored by that. I’d love to hear what people who are bigger mystery/thriller fans have to say about The Silkworm!

Do I recommend The Silkworm? Yes! Will I read more by Robert Galbraith? Absolutely yes! I’m really looking forward to the next installment in the Cormoran Strike series, mostly for the pleasure of spending time with Strike himself — although we all know that Rowling/Galbraith can spin a good yarn, and I’m always up for seeing whatever she chooses to do next.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Silkworm
Author: Robert  Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: June 24, 2014
Length: 455 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased

 

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: The Silkworm

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

My most wished-for book this week is:

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
(expected US publication date: June 24, 2014)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

The announcement was just made this past weekend that Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling, will have a new book out this June — and I, for one, can’t wait! I had mixed feelings about Rowling’s first post-Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, but I did really enjoy The Cuckoo’s Calling, which Rowling published pseudonymously last year. What I liked best about The Cuckoo’s Calling was the main character, Cormoran Strike, who struck me as smart, unusual, and not-quite-perfect. I’m really looking forward to reading the next Strike mystery, and hope it takes the character in new and complicated directions.

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!