The thing about entirely plot-based books is that they don’t usually make for good re-reads, and I am a TOTAL book re-reader. “Do I want to re-read this someday?” is genuinely a question I ask before I will elevate a book to the four star level. If the answer is no, then there better be some damn fine extenuating circumstances as to why not (for instance a book that’s really good, but so traumatizing and upsetting that you can’t read it more than once).
Mysteries sometimes can’t be re-read, because you already know what happened (unless you forgot, in which case, congratulations, you get a brand new book to read!) and there’s nothing else there to bring you back, be it atmosphere, humor, emotion, etc. For me, the Cormoran Strike series works on re-read because of the strength of its characters. (It’s also fun to read a book of Rowling’s with the end in mind and see all the clues you missed the first time around that were hiding in plain sight.)
Strike is certainly a character who fits into the literary detective genre. He’s hardened and grizzly, and he’s clever where others aren’t. He’s also down on his luck when we meet him, dealing with a disability and just having been dumped by his beautiful fiancé, with whom he has a tortured, sordid past. But Strike is dogged and determined, and endearingly befuddled. He also has a backstory that just keeps giving. His famous (infamous) parents, his military history, his relationships. He’s multi-faceted, like a big, hairy diamond.
But Robin is where it’s at, y’all. I love her. My one main complaint when I read this book the first time is that I wanted more of her, which we eventually get. She too has an intriguing backstory that is doled out in bits and pieces over the first three books, deepening her emotional life as a character. She’s not just Strike’s plucky assistant. She has desires and wants and fears and ambitions. Her interactions with Strike right away just tickle me, because she instinctively seems to know how to disarm him, and yet they still have a give and take in their relationship, and he still has the power to hurt her (I’m thinking in this one of his tendency to devalue the work Robin does for him because he’s never had a partner before, a thing that is thankfully rectified by the end of the novel).
The mystery itself is still good, still a great reflection on the nature of celebrity and the press, how an image doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. And Lula is still an complex center to build a first novel in a series around.
Also, on faintingviolet’s recommendation, this time around I did the audiobook, and I very much enjoyed myself. If you like audiobooks and mysteries and haven’t yet read this, or are just looking to do a re-read, audio might be the way to go for you. Excellent narrator. Can’t wait to revisit books two and three in the same format. Hopefully by the time I’m finished in the next several months, we’ll have a release date for book four.