The short of it: I really, really, really liked this book. I still don’t quite LOVE it, but I’m allllmost there. A couple more books should do the trick. (In fact, I did like it better than The Cuckoo’s Calling, although at certain points it was much more uncomfortable for me to read.) So, no pressure, book three. No pressure.
So in the last one, Strike and his new assistant Robin end up investigating the death of the famous supermodel Lula Landry (aka “Cuckoo”), but in this one instead of models, it’s writers. Strike–fresh off his notable capture of Lula’s murderer–is very in demand as a a P.I., so it’s him that the wife of missing author Owen Quine comes to in order to locate her husband (who she believes has just gone off to some writer’s retreat and forgotten to tell her where it is or when he’ll be back). Turns out, yep, he’s dead, and not only that, but he was murdered in a pretty horrible fashion, exactly recreating a scene from his own unpublished book, Bombyx Mori. Only Bombyx Mori (the latin name for the silkworm) is basically the most infamous unpublished book in London right now, owing to its being a very, very thinly veiled representation of basically everyone in London’s literary scene, agents, publishers, editors, and authors alike. None of it is flattering, to say the least, and most of it is at turns horrifying, gruesome, gut-churning, and purposefully offensive (all couched in metaphor and allegory, of course).
So that’s the mystery. Being inherently more interested in authors and publishing than I am in models and such, the mystery in this one definitely grabbed me more than in Cuckoo, but Robin and Strike continue to be the real draw for me in this series. (I also continue to fancast them in my head as a chubbier, more hirsute Richard Armitage, and Jenna Louise Coleman.)
So yes: Robin and Strike. I’m very much into that. Not necessarily shipping it, although I wouldn’t be against that pairing in the future, but these two as a professional partnership are just really fun to read about. Especially since Rowling (as Galbraith) confronts head on Robin’s feelings that Strike is marginalizing her at work. I was a bit worried about a third of the way through that she was going to fall into the trap of having a conflict grow between them that could have easily been solved by communication (my least favorite type of conflict), but I shouldn’t have worried. They handle it all professionally, and both characters come away from the book having taken really satisfying leaps of growth. (I’m still holding out hope that Robin will dump that fiance of hers, but at least he’s now not being such a huge asshole about everything. Honestly, one of the main reasons I just can’t bring myself to give this that extra half a star is that I want more Robin in these books. I know Strike is the main character, but I really feel like Robin should have equal amounts of POV-time. Maybe now that she’s taking more of an active role in the business we’ll get more POV from her. More Robin, Jo! Do you hear me? (I suppose she could do worse than have Strike as her main character, though. He’s persistent and smart and he has issues that aren’t easily resolved.)
Anyway, like I said at the beginning, I was feeling a bit weird when I was 1/3 of the way through. The thing with Robin and Strike was making me feel upset, and the excerpts of Bombyx Mori that we hear about and read for ourselves are, frankly, disturbing as fuck, but I pushed through and both things were addressed by the end. More importantly, the reason behind them being there in the first place was made pretty clear (won’t explain–sorry, spoilers). There was just a bunch of good stuff packed in this book, and I’d have to read it multiple more times to probably get it all, just stuff about her skewering the publishing industry and certain kinds of writers, which is also wrapped up in some sly commentary about the ways women deal with working in traditionally male fields (surely she has drawn on personal experience here, on both counts). Her love for underdogs and disadvantaged people is also very much present. And her dead man, Owen Quine, could very easily have been portrayed one-note, but he ends up being a rather complex figure. Anyway, the storytelling of this book just sucked me the hell in. I spent the whole day reading, curled up on my couch with hot tea, listening to the monsoon. And it was very memorable and wonderful. This is most definitely a book-reader’s book–it will give you the experience, not just the story.
Again, hesitant to give this the full five stars, but can easily see myself doing so on a re-read. I hope she’s able to get book three out by summer next year. I was all trained to wait several years (at least) between Rowling books, but now she’s given me three in two years and my expectations have been adjusted. I now expect books yearly and shall be sorely disappointed if things turn out otherwise.