When Val McDermid reviewed the first Robert Galbraith novel, she praised the book saying that it incorporated the best of the traditional mystery fiction and private-eye pace. The first one was good, but the second one was prone to get bogged by the “Second Book Syndrome” But nothing as such happened. Cormoran Strike, professionally busy and more famous after solving the Lula Landry case, gets a visit from a lady who wants her writer husband found. She needs him for the daily expenses, and also needs him for their daughter who is distraught without him.
The book was long. A bit too long for the kind of plot it featured, but thanks to the style of narration the process of reading it never seemed boring. Most long crime novels falls into the trap of over emphasizing the human psychology, the relations between the characters and other stuff which doesn’t help the plot a bit. Galbraith did incorporate these “human” layers in the book, like the relation between Robin and her fiancé Matthew, or the strange but enjoyable relation between her and Strike (wonder where that will go in the next book), but they never got out of hand, and came in the way of the plot. Every time I felt that maybe the conversation between the two characters is getting long enough, the writer presented me with a scene which bears a direct relation to the main plot. Page skipping was not an issue with this book. The plot, though nothing ground breaking was stable and the ending was done in a way that the crime doesn’t get solved through circumstantial evidence. The common plot and motive, and the length of the book could have made the whole thing boring, but the pace and non-deviation from the main plot turned it into a highly enjoyable piece of crime fiction. And the crime described was awesome. If the Nordic writer thought that they could be gory and brutal, then they do have a serious competitor here.
The characters were well drawn but again keeping in mind the nature of the book which is ultimately a crime novel, these developments were shown through the actions of the characters. They never made me yawn and ponder whether this book is a crime novel or a class in character development. Page long description of characters and chandeliers ala P.D. James style was never my cup of tea. The way they spoke, or the way they acted spelled out whether they are a bully or they are in awe of themselves. Even the description of the victim’s daughter was done through a series of dialogues and scenes where Strike and Robin tries to question her for clues. The description was potent enough to be heart-breaking.
The main point is, J.K. Rowling CAN WRITE. She has proved it over and over again. The Potter maniacs will vouch for that, the people who love the process of filling up the casual vacancy would vouch for that, and now us crime fanatics would vouch for that too. So, there was never any doubt that these books featuring strike would be anything but good. Yes, I did have a sense of anxiety as to how she will handle the plotting, but with these two books she has really laid my fears to rest.