Joanne’s Mystery Picks

LETHAL WHITE51vbz607nll-_sx322_bo1204203200_ by Robert Galbraith

If there was ever any doubt that J.K. Rowling was just a flash in the pan with her Harry Potter series, then that doubt is quickly shattered with the latest installment in her Cormoran Strike series (written under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith).  Coming in at 647 pages, this complex story takes us from the supposed psychotic ramblings of “Billy”, who pleads for Strike’s help in investigating a crime that he thinks he witnessed as a child, to the Houses of Parliament.

As Strike pursues Billy’s story, made difficult by his sudden disappearance, Robin goes undercover in The House where “back-stabbing” is a daily occurrence amongst the Ministers and their cronies.  Both investigations are complicated further by the events taking place in the private lives of Cormoran and Robin, respectively, as their personal relationship grows.

Due to their previous successes, Cormoran and Robin’s services are in great demand – to the point that they’ve had to hire more investigators.  This results in Cormoran taking on the bulk of the surveillance.  The toll that this takes on his body is evident in ever painful step that he takes.  The pair will soon have to make some important decisions about the future of the agency and their personal relationship.

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

25790847Bryant & May: Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler

The mighty River Thames; Houdini; New Age healing; hallucinations; and Alzheimer’s: they are all topics in this latest installment of the cases of Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  Again Fowler takes what seem to be disparate themes, and weaves together a brilliant tale.

The body of a young woman is found chained to a post at low-tide, with only one set of footsteps indicating her journey to that spot.  Reminiscent of a locked-room mystery, the team scramble to work out how she came to be there.  In the meantime, Arthur’s periods of forgetfulness are becoming more frequent and are now including delusions, and he’s eventually confined to his home.  There, he’s able to ruminate on the case and consult with the many odd and eccentric characters that periodically help him.  It always comes back to the “River” for him.

May makes a poor judgement call and is suspended from duties, further complicating matters for his co-workers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team is quickly learning that without Bryant’s presence in the Unit, they just don’t function.  He’s the cog in the wheel that keeps everything rolling along, regardless of his forgetfulness. When a suspect becomes clear to the Unit, there is no immediate evidence to actually tie them to the crimes.  And the River keeps calling them…perhaps Bryant is right…and it is the clue to the solution.

A great read!

51hy2bgbenkl-_sx328_bo1204203200_Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

This third book in the Cormoran Strike series hits a very gruesome note.  When a package is addressed and delivered to Robin at Strike’s office, it is revealed to be the severed leg of a young woman.  Strike is certain that one of three persons is responsible for this possible murder, the least being his former stepfather, Jeff Whittaker.  Foreshadowing of the disturbing events to come is done chapter by chapter with quotations from the many songs by the heavy-metal rock band, Blue Oyster Cult.

As Strike pursues the suspects on his list, Robin takes the initiative to explore related avenues, which expose her to great danger.

I could do without the gory details of the many and various body parts that are hacked off and the methods that the killer uses to bring down his victims, often recited to us in the first person.  To me it’s a bit too “over the top” – almost to the point of being gratuitous violence.

What I do like is how Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) fleshes out the characters of Strike and Robin, describing their respective back stories.  There’s no doubt that Robin is the star in this novel.  She’s become more confident and assertive in both her private and professional life, and we are now able to understand why these things have been so difficult for her, given what we now know of her history.

I’m anxious to see where the story goes from here as the surprises at the end of this novel have the potential to push it forward in many directions.  Cormoran and Robin are quite the team and I look forward to reading more of them, but with less gore to their cases!


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

ontheboneOn the Bone by Barbara Nadel

Truth, lies and family secrets: against a background of foodies and a chef who exceeds the boundaries of “good taste”, Nadel has crafted a novel that touches so many bases.

Inspector Cetin Ikmen and his colleague Mehmet Suleyman become incidental as the story unravels. We hear little of Ikmen’s family life or Suleyman’s mistress, Gonca. It’s the story of how and why Umit Kavas dropped dead on the street of Beyoglu that needs to be told and why his body showed that he’d indulged in the last taboo.

She shows us the precipitous slope that “not telling” can lead to and its effect on an entire family. The power of the internet, the radicalization of young people, and ISIS in all its horror are graphically examined and should make any parent aware of the dangers to their children, causing them to carefully monitor their computer use.

The novel lacks a lot of the humour present in the other Ikmen stories, but then humour really doesn’t have much of a place in a story of such unsettling themes. It’s one of those novel that will stay with you for a long time while you contemplate the “what ifs” in your own life.

200px-CuckoosCallingCoverThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is having a bad day. He has just broken up with his fiancée of 15+ years and is now virtually homeless, resorting to sleeping in his office. His PI business is floundering, and he is up to his eyebrows in debt. His prosthetic leg (the result of his tour in Afghanistan) is giving him grief and the temp agency has sent him another secretary who is surplus to his needs.

And then John Bristow walks through the door. Wealthy, and the brother of Charlie and Lula, both now deceased, Bristow could just be Cormoran’s ticket out of his troubles. Charlie, a school mate of Cormoran’s, died years ago when he rode his bike into a quarry; Lula Landry, the famous model, committed suicide a few months back by jumping out of her apartment window – or so the police concluded. It’s Lula’s death that Bristow wants Cormoran to investigate because he believes it was anything but suicide.

So Cormoran insinuates himself into the world of high fashion, rock stars, and dysfunctional families (the least of which is his very own).

Galbraith (the pseudonym of J. K. Rowling) has created a fresh new character in Cormoran – someone who endears himself to the reader after the first chapter. I enjoyed every page of this novel – the humour, the cleverness of the plot, and the well formed characters. Cormoran is a character I want to read more of!