A slight improvement on book 1: solid and entertaining but still overlong and overly complex. 3.5/5 stars.
The blurb: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
I read and reviewed Book 1 in this series – The Cuckoo’s Calling – back at the start of December and gave it 3/5 stars. As you can see, I’ve rated this second installment slightly higher, mostly because it’s mercifully free of the over-blown language which featured in the first book and irritated me by no small measure. If you missed my slightly ranty review of Book 1, you can see it here.
Otherwise, I could pretty much copy what I said about Book 1 and paste it here. To be brief:
- characterization very good (we like Robin and Strike but just about everyone else is loathsome)
- descriptions of London excellent
- far too long.
And this time I picked up on something else which could also be said of The Cuckoo’s Calling: the mystery is a little too impenetrable. There are so many characters with intertwining backstories, unless you keep your own notes as you’re reading you have little hope of guessing who did it. Every time Strike has a revelation I get the feeling we’re supposed to have an inkling of what he’s thinking. Sadly, I didn’t have a clue.
Keeping the reader so deeply in the dark means that when the murderer and their motive is finally revealed, it all happens in the last thirty pages, giving us little time to enjoy the revelations and how Strike worked it all out. I would have preferred it if we’d at least had enough access to Strike’s suspicions to be able to form our own! I don’t want to author to put up huge, obvious signposts, but some little, accessible hints wouldn’t go amiss. I want to feel like I’m on the detective’s team and privy to some of his secrets.
I’m going to take a moment to talk about the best thing about this series: Robin. Once again, I will be continuing with the series just to find out what happens to her. My hope? She gets all the detective training she can, dumps Matthew, quits her job and sets up her own detective agency which swiftly becomes fantastically lucrative. Then she can start to sub-contract to Strike when she and her staff have more work than they can handle in-house.
Overall: another entertaining mystery. I will continue with the series, but only when I can get it from the library.
Have you read The Silkworm? Have you already read Career of Evil? Is it the best in the series? Let me know! (but please no spoilers about Robin!)