Category Archives: Suspense

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Jacket

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.

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

pleasurecalling

For our “year of reading” at work, our director suggests a genre each month to get us to try books we might not otherwise read. So far it has been good for me – I read an Agatha Christie for Cozy Mystery month, a Regency Romance (with indentured servitude, mistaken identity and kidnapping by pirates!) for Romance month, and finally had an excuse to read Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb for Steampunk month. (The month we were supposed to read Narrative Nonfiction I decided I read enough of that already without any provocation.) This month’s genre is “Thrillers”, so I dug this book up, but I think I’m going to have to read something else because this wasn’t the thriller I thought it was going to be. I don’t mean it was bad, just that it was more of a psychological suspense kind of book than the action-packed thrillride bunch of scariness I expected a “thriller” to be. So if you’re looking for car chases, frantic running through dark woods, or the fear of death every minute, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for mildly creepy on the surface but terrifying once you think too much about it, this is your book.
Our protagonist, Mr. Heming, is a real estate agent. He is quiet, unremarkable, and even if you bought your house from him you’ve probably forgotten him. But he hasn’t forgotten you. In fact, he probably still has the key to your house and comes over when you’re not home to “get to know you”. Mr. Heming likes to have breakfast in houses where he knows the owners aren’t in. He likes to keep detailed records of his clients’ comings and goings, their browsing histories on their computers, their credit card statements, their address books – he’ll even go so far as to spend the night in crawl spaces listening to the inhabitants as they retire for bed. This is a harmless personality quirk, surely…people are just so interesting, and Mr. Heming thinks it’s only natural that he should want to know all about them. It’s even sort of amusing when Heming occasionally takes revenge on people who have wronged others – in one case, he witnesses one of his homeowners knocking the mirror off of his neighbor’s car. When the man denies this and refuses to pay for the repairs, Heming anonymously pays for it himself – and then uses the information he’s collected on the homeowner to make his life miserable. All this is weird, but still relatively innocent, and Mr. Heming seems so reasonable while he is telling you his story…until it becomes apparent that he will do anything necessary to avoid getting caught, and has in fact done some things in his past that he’s forgotten to mention to you.

I’m not sure what reads like this, since it isn’t my usual genre. It reminds me a little of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places in the sense that the protagonist is really not a very good person, but you’re stuck with him because he’s the one telling you the story. It also vaguely brought back some hints of Joyce Carol Oates’ Rosamund Smith books, like Lives of the Twins, where characters turn out to be way scarier on the inside than they look on the outside.

All I can say is that I am VERY, VERY HAPPY that my husband and I changed the locks right after buying our house. Not because we suspected our realtor of being a psychopath (she’s actually quite charming), but because there was a key for each door. EACH DOOR. Who has 5 keys for one house? But better safe than sorry in case our realtor turns out to be a Mr. Heming wannabe, right?