This is the second of Galbraith’s “who-dun-its” starring the one-legged private detective Cormoran Strike, and the quality of the writing, the pace of the action, the depth of the characters and the evocative settings are an equal to the first in the series. Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, takes us behind the scenes of the vicious back-biting publishing industry, where one particularly unloveable author goes missing and then turns up horribly dead.
Our hero Strike is still riding the high of his previous successful and high-profile case (detailed in The Cuckoo’s Calling) that brought him some fame and, more importantly, the funds to begin retiring his debt and eventually to pay his new assistant Robin the wages she deserves. Strike is tired of tailing wayward spouses for the rich and famous and when a careworn and mousy woman asks for his help in finding her missing husband, he jumps at the chance for some real sleuthing–and ends up neck-deep in a convoluted and seriously nasty murder investigation with more suspects than he could wish for.
Galbraith includes everything one could wish for in a murder investigation—a mysterious cloaked woman, kinky sex, a book within a book, missing intestines, a lot of very finely-drawn and colorful (if unpleasant) characters, and lots of sexual tension between Strike and Robin. Galbraith successfully draws her readers’ attention to the motives for murder that abound in the circles around the victim, all the while giving us bits of backstory to both Strike and Robin. I enjoyed the author’s very capable writing and dialogue, and felt the chill of the arctic weather and the pain of Strike’s inflamed limb every step of the way.
My only complaint, if I must have one, is that Strike’s “aha moment” when he finally identifies the murderer is not at all transparent, and I felt a certain frustration—after following his torturous journey through a mountain of evidence—that I was not able to accompany him in this, his crowning moment. Still, a worthy second in the series, and I’m looking forward to the next.