Bingo Square (Round 2): Listicles (The Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2018)
I never got into the habit of paying attention to release dates for most novels. Back in the day, I would find out a new novel from a beloved author was being released because I would find it on the “New Releases” display of the local Barnes and Noble – with some notable exceptions for very high profile novels. With the transition to digital books, it’s been a bit harder for me to pay attention though the pre-order function does make it easy to make sure that once I become aware, I don’t have to remember again!
Fortunately between the FB page and the site, other Cannonballers help keep me aware of upcoming releases, and this same listicle that features Lethal White also made me aware that Michelle Obama has a memoir coming out in a month!
It’s been long enough since the last Cormoran Strike novel that the only thing I really remembered was Strike barging into Robin’s wedding during the vows. This novel picks up right at the wedding, and shows Robin going through with it. However, based on some discoveries, her wedding day is filled with anger at Matthew for his deceits, and doubts on Robin’s part. The only reason she doesn’t walk out that moment is because of the money her parents spent, and to keep up appearances. However, Strike also doesn’t quite make the gesture she needs from him at that moment, so after the initial chapter, the novel fast forwards a year.
Robin is still trying to make her relationship with Matthew work though her heart isn’t exactly in. Her relationship with Strike as become distant and purely professional, missing the easy rapport from before. To add to all this, she is also still suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of the actions of the previous novels. Fortunately, there is nothing like an intriguing case that calls for all hands on deck to bring Strike and Robin back into the groove of their normally supportive friendship. The agency has mostly been doing well given the publicity from the serial killer of the last novel (I literally remember nothing about this case or who did it but I know I read the book because of the wedding stuff), but it’s also been rather standard, boring work, following around crooked business partners and cheating spouses. Still, it’s enough of a workload for Strike to have some subcontractors working for him in addition to Robin but not enough to move out of his place above the office.
This case kicks off after a young man comes into Strike’s office to report a crime. As a young child, he saw a young child strangled and buried. Billy is mentally disturbed so Strike isn’t sure how much is part of the man’s delusions and how much is real but some of the details seem more like a memory so after the man gets scared and runs away, Strike tries to find him again to get more details. This leads him to a labor/anti-Olympics meeting (it’s 2012) led by Billy’s brother, Jimmy. Things probably would have ended here, but due to his presence at the meeting, he receives a call from a government official who is being blackmailed by Jimmy Knight. Jasper Chiswell (pronounced Chizzle), the Minister of Culture, hopes that Strike already has some dirt on Jimmy but when he finds out he doesn’t, hires him to get leverage he can use against his co-blackmailers, Jimmy Knight, and Winn, the mostly useless husband of the Minister of Sport. Chiswell refuses to share what the blackmail was about but he (and others in the know) insist it was legal at the time, even if the aesthetics would be horrible if it came out.
The novel weaves so many different people, and motivations together though nothing is resolved until the end (which kind of diminished the enjoyment for me but more on that later). As always, Rowling is great at setting up and putting the pieces together. So much of the novel is about relationships – Robin and her failing marriage, Cormoran and his girlfriend, how Robin and Cormoran react to each other, each thinking the other is in a happy relationship. The Chiswell family dynamics are also complicated though stereotypical – gold digging younger wife, disgraced youngest son, two loyal daughters, the beloved eldest son. As Strike investigates Chiswell’s political enemies, he also never completely lets the dead child out of his mind, wondering how it all ties in.
JK Rowling described this in the back as the most complicated book she’s ever had to plot. I respect the work she put into this, and it’s not that she didn’t wrap it up nicely, but by the time she finally made revelations, it also felt like the answers were so convoluted (and yet straightforward) that I didn’t really care that much? It seemed like it took much too long for there to be any pay off and slightly too many tangentially related plot points. I haven’t really seen many other reactions to this so I am looking forward to see what everyone else thinks. Overall, it’s not that she isn’t a master of her craft, but I probably would have been happy with a slightly simpler story with development throughout rather than something that didn’t make sense until the very end. And even then, I’m not sure how original the solution really was, or if it was simply wrapped up in lots of packaging – like a gift wrapped in tissue, placed in a box, wrapped in wrapping paper and placed in a gift bag.
Bingo Square: Listicles