02 November 2014

724

Picture from National Post
In a nutshell: J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) had written two detective novels and looks about to continue with the series. I think they're awful and here's my review. Disclaimer/warning/whatnots:

1. If you think Rowling can do no wrong, then just read the books and ignore what I say.
2. There will be spoilers, including whodunnit. You've been warned.
3. When it comes to detective stories, I'm actually a very lazy reader. I usually just accept whatever the writer tells me, be it Doyle or Christie or, I don't know, Brookmyre? (See, I'm not even a big fan of this genre) So I guess it should tell something when even I can spot to plot hole(s).

So, here goes.

The first book, The Cuckoo's Calling, was actually OK-ish. The characters: an ex-army turned private detective Cormoran Strike and his sidekick assistant, Robin (yeah, really), were quite believable and likable. I always like Rowling's style of writing and here, she's done a good job immersing us into this muggle-side-but-nonetheless-still-magical London, what with supermodels and rock stars and paparazzi. A supermodel was found dead jumping from her third floor apartment. She had a history of mental problem, therefore after a meticulous investigation, the police declare it as a suicide. Her brother didn't buy it, and finally after three months, came hiring Strike to re-investigate it as a murder case.

The problem was, the brother was the murderer. Seriously. He had already got away with something close to a perfect murder, so, WWWHHHHYYYYYY??? No explanation whatsoever (bat-shit insane is not an explanation). I only found this plausible theory after dwelling into amazon and goodreads forums. If most people come with wrong theories or none at all, should it be mentioned in the book?

So I was disappointed with Cuckoo's whodunnit, but as I mentioned before, I like the characters and Rowling's writing. Therefore I downloaded the second book, The Silkworm. You see, reading an ill*gal copy requires me to write a glowing review. So I actually had a high expectation and every intention to enjoy the book.

But it was even worse than Cuckoo! The writing was careless and patronizing. I actually skipped a few parts that just gave me headache. And some parts were just a bit insulting.
And to Strike's great satisfaction, Chard began at once to review his own movements aloud,apparently for his own reassurance.
...
Strike did not see why he should not deploy the direct attack to a man who had announced an ulterior motive for meeting within seconds of their first encounter.
Ooh, you're so clever and calculating and cold-hearted Mr. Strike.

Speaking of which, the character was also shifted. As an Afghanistan vet who were just broken up with his fiancee and couldn't help tied up to his job that he did really well, Strike in Cuckoo was doing OK. Strike in Silkworm was bitter. Bitter is OK, sometimes we like bitter characters. But Rowling seemed to insist that Strike was not, in fact, bitter. He was just surrounded by annoying people. There really was no win in this situation.

The plot was convoluted, you wouldn't expect that from someone who wrote a series of seven books smoothly. But what if, you know, what if Harry Potter worked because Rowling made up her own rules? And since that wouldn't work in muggle real world, the plot had to be adjusted. The murderer now had a better motive and didn't do something as stupid as in Cuckoo, but by the time it revealed, I already stopped caring. And it was revealed in the same way as Cuckoo, by Strike making a long speech explaining how-it-was-done. Hercule Poirot does this in almost all his books, and at the same time usually manage to reveal the location of a missing heirloom, solving family dispute, and bring two would-be lovers together. But even he usually already have a solid proof and the culprit usually confess.

What about the glowing review, you may ask *sigh* I think my one bleak review won't have much effect to the sale of these books. I do think that Rowling should not write another detective story, if not for the fact that both books receive four stars in goodreads and there are people out there who are willing to read her shopping list. So I guess I have to do something else to make up my karma.

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