Category Archives: Mystery

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith


The third time’s a charm for Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott (I rambled about the first and second earlier). This book gets more personal than the previous installments, showing the reader glimpses of Robin’s past life that give us reasons for her confidence issues. We see more of Strike’s past, too – his mother has apparently provided him not only with enough enemies (and strange allies – we meet a friend of Strike’s from childhood who I hope against hope becomes a recurring character) to keep him busy but also enough material to keep his therapist (if he had one, and he should) occupied for years.

The setup: Robin gets a package, delivered by motorcycle courier. She’s in the thick of her wedding plans, so she assumes it’s the disposable cameras she ordered for the reception – until she opens it to find a woman’s severed leg. Strike reveals that he knows 4 different people that could have sent it – and the novel takes off, with the police chasing after the person Strike thinks least likely, and he and Robin tailing the other three. There is the usual stress between Strike and the police (there are those on the force still sensitive about his previous successes, which have made them look bad), Robin and her fiancé (will they resolve their differences in time for the wedding?), Robin and Strike (what exactly did Strike mean when he called her a “partner”? Will she finally be recognized as a real detective?), and once again the agency teeters on the brink of financial ruin…and of course, the suspense thickens as it becomes clear that the killer has set his sights on Robin.

The thing about this book that I really liked (though I read a review that thought this was awful) was the fact that it was told partly from the killer’s point of view. The killer himself gives us tons of tantalizing clues in his segments, but the three suspects are so similar in personality, motive, and methods that I never managed to figure out which of them it was. This is why I love this series – I haven’t picked the killer YET, and failure has never made me so happy.

Speaking of reading reviews, I found this in a review by Christobel Kent  in The Guardian:

If your taste in detective fiction runs to the minimalist, then this is not for you. If Georges Simenon is a simple, perfect kitchen stool and Agatha Christie a sensible wingbacked chair, then Robert Galbraith is a vast, overstuffed sofa, complete with dog hair and something unmentionable behind the cushions.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Also the couch is upholstered in a vigorous, colorful paisley print. With texture. Enjoy.


The Secret Place by Tana French


Tana French has got her groove back, thank goodness. I really didn’t like her last book (Broken Harbor) but this one had me staying up late and reading on my work breaks to find out whodunit. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you.)

If you’ve never read Tana French, you can start with any book – they are all loosely connected by way of being about someone in the Dublin Murder Squad, but since each novel stands alone and features different detectives, there are no real spoilers. If you are only going to read one of her books, try The Likeness (if you like suspense) or Faithful Place (if you like complicated family drama). Of course if you’re a purist and intend to read them all, start with her first, In the Woods. It doesn’t matter where you start, they’re all good (as long as you avoid Broken Harbor).

The Secret Place’s protagonist is detective Stephen Moran. We met Moran initially in Faithful Place, but now he is working in Cold Cases. One morning, the daughter of his former mentor Frank Mackey comes to him with a card she found – a card with a picture of Chris Harper, a boy who was murdered on the grounds of her school, St Kilda’s, over a year ago. The card reads “I know who killed him.” Moran isn’t on the Murder Squad, but he wants to be. He shows the card to Antoinette Conway, whose case it was before it went cold over a year ago. Her partner on that case has since retired, so she grudgingly accepts Moran as temporary sidekick. They drive out to St Kilda’s to investigate, and what follows is a roller-coaster ride where he and Conway encounter defensive nuns, warring mean girl cliques, and what seem like endless layers of deception. Moran and Conway don’t know each other, so they are constantly trying to feel each other out on the fly and aren’t sure how far to trust one another – if at all. And as the evidence starts to implicate Holly, her father gets involved and Stephen has to decide whether to risk career suicide by offending his former boss or bail.

The most intriguing aspect of this story is the very real threats Stephen faces while working this case. First of all, he isn’t on the Murder Squad, and his involvement could be interpreted as poaching. Second, Conway is an outsider in the Murder Squad – the men have never accepted her, and are actively trying to drive her out. Aligning himself with her could be genius if they solve the case, but if they don’t, he may as well go back to being a uniformed cop. As a person of a lower social class and as a man, he has to be extra careful dealing with the girls at St. Kilda’s, who can so easily destroy him with any hint of impropriety on his part. He dances delicately, and it’s fun to watch.

What reads like this book? Hmmm. Some of the characters remind me of Gillian Flynn’s younger characters in both Sharp Objects and Dark Places. The fierce friendship between the girls and the isolation of their school life reminded me a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but that’s a stretch.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike strikes again. If you read and liked Cuckoo’s Calling (reviewed earlier here), read this one, it’s good too. Instead of models and actors, our suspects this go-round are publishers, literary agents, authors, and their various wives/lovers/hangers-on. There’s murder, disembowelment, sadomasochism, slander, infidelity, and vandalism involving dog poo. What’s not to like? On the more positive side, we start to learn a lot more about sidekick Robin and her personal life, and we see Strike finding more professional success. Plus, they get the bad guy, while thoroughly keeping the reader in the dark until the reveal. Or at least I didn’t figure it out – you might be better than I am at avoiding the author’s red herrings and picking out the condemning details. If you read it, and figure out whodunit before Strike, please let me know!

The Dresden Files (series) by Jim Butcher

So the reason I haven’t posted in forever is that I’ve been spending all of my free reading time reading children’s books and…confession time…I’ve been binging on the Dresden Files. For years I have looked up these books for patrons and silently judged these books by their covers – complete with pictures on the back of the author with Very Big Bad Hair. (He looks like the kind of guy who lives in his parent’s basement and plays too much D&D.) But then I heard that the audiobooks were read by actor James Marsters, who I have been mildly in love with since he appeared on Smallville and madly in love with since I binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since the first book (Storm Front) I’ve been hooked. I get the ebooks along with the audio in case I stop driving at a cliffhanger moment or the CD skips and I miss something. It’s a sickness. I’m ashamed, but I still perennially have the next 2 on hold.

The premise of the series is that magic and the supernatural are real, but most people don’t believe. Harry Dresden is a wizard – the only practicing wizard in Chicago, with an ad in the phone book and everything. Of course, none but the most desperate or nutty clients would seek out his services, so he is constantly hungry for cash and takes on the most ridiculous cases to pay the bills. He serves as a consultant to the Special Investigations unit (Chicago’s vague equivalent to the X-Files team) and is called in on cases where the supernatural seems likely. His “straight man” on the force is Karrin Murphy, a 5-foot cop with overcompensation issues (she may be short, but she knows several martial arts and is an expert in all types of firearms). She kicks the mortal asses while Harry kicks the supernatural ones. It’s fun to watch (listen).

It sounds cheesy, I know. The covers look cheesy. The constant glowing descriptions of every female character (there are no ugly females as far as lonely Harry is concerned, and he lovingly details their every feature for you) are cheesy. The fight scenes are overly dramatic and the sex scenes are downright hilarious in their soap-opera-y way. But for some reason I am as powerless to stop reading these books as I am to stop eating potato chips once I start. They seem to be getting better and better as more characters are introduced and we find out more and more about Harry’s world. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Spike reading to me while I drive. It’s hard to say. Read one yourself (or better yet let Spike read it to you) and see. But beware – maybe the author really IS a wizard, and he’s put an addictive spell on them? Who can say?