I don’t read a lot of modern-day mysteries, but this month I read three. And since they’re mysteries, there’s only so much I can tell you. So I thought I’d combine my reviews.
Mystery #1: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
I waited nearly a year to read this book and it didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed reading about Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, just as much as I did in The Cuckoo’s Calling. The plot in this book was fascinating, since it’s about the publishing industry and most of the characters are authors, publishers, or agents. I found it a more interesting story than Cuckoo, although the murder is about as gruesome as anything I’ve read. Still, it’s gruesome in a campy disgusting kind of way, but it’s not torture or sexual violence so I could live with it.
With Cuckoo we got more character development, and I wished Silkworm had more of that. Strike sort of eats his way through this book and moons about his ex, and Robin is still trying to figure out whether to marry her fiancé. But at least we get to meet both their families. I’m really fascinated by these two characters. Of course Rowling can’t cram everything into one book.
I thought the resolution of the mystery was much better in this book than Cuckoo, although there’s a few annoying parts where our detectives figure things out but they don’t clue the reader in until later. Kind of an interesting writing technique, really.
If you liked Cuckoo’s Calling, I’d say this one is even better.
This is book 1 in the Wallander series, which is also a BBC show with Kenneth Branagh. It’s set in a very remote part of Sweden. My good friend recommends both the books and the show, so I was happy to give this one a try.
I was immediately fascinated by the story. It opens with the brutal assault and murder of an elderly couple living in a very rural farmhouse. Nothing seems to be stolen and nothing about this couple is out of the ordinary except for their deaths. The book had a fast-paced story and I really liked that it raised interesting issues around immigration and the treatment of refugees.
Wallander is your semi-typical middle-aged detective. Like Cormoran Strike, his eating and drinking habits are unhealthy, and his history with women is lousy. What I liked about Wallander and his fellow cops were how flawed they are. They bungle the job several times in this book, ignoring key evidence and letting people evade capture. But at the same time Wallander puts his whole body on the line to solve the case. He takes a serious beating in this book.
But where Cormoran Strike is loveable, Wallander is much more difficult to like. For one thing, I found his treatment of women in this book to be appalling, especially the new District Attorney. Still, he grows on you.
I had two other issues with this book. The first was the writing style. Usually writing styles don’t jump out at me, but this book was awkwardly written in a way that made me wonder if the translation was a problem. I don’t read a ton of translated works but this book was full of short, passive sentences that told me the same things multiple times, and I just found it distracting. (It also told me things that weren’t story relevant, like the fact that our main character is prone to diarrhea after eating. Ugh.)
Second, while the story was fascinating, the ending felt rushed and a bit tacked-on. But I find that pretty common with mysteries. Sometimes the writer is trying to lead you TO the conclusion, but most of the time they are trying to trick you away from it.
But I won’t tell you more than that. A good read but I’m wondering if they get better? Or maybe it’s worth checking out the Kenneth Branagh version.
Stay tuned for Mystery #3, Rubberneckers by Belinda Bauer — a book that deserves its own review.