I have really been enjoying my reading lately. Last summer I lost my way with it a bit, I think because I was reading books which were winning literary awards and being talked about, rather than stories I had chosen by reference to the author or the blurb. So I went back to my safety zone for a while and reconnected with my love of historical fiction and crime novels. I have written about my discovery of Susanna Gregory's historical crime fiction HERE and now it is time to take a look at the three modern crime books which I have read so far this year.
First Up: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
This is a book I have wanted to read for a while. It was published two years ago by J.K. Rowling using the pen name of Robert Galbraith and is the first in a new series, the third installment of which was published just before Christmas 2015. The story is set in current-day London and introduces us to Cormoran Strike, the glamorously named private detective who features in each of the novels. There ensues a suspicious death, a cast of suspects and an investigation by Mr Strike and his new secretary, Robin. The main thrust of the plot is: did the beautiful young model, Lula Landry, jump or fall from her balcony, or was she pushed?
I loved this book. I found it to be immensely readable, clever and superbly written. The characters were well drawn and vivid and the story just complicated enough to keep me guessing without losing me along the way. The tone of the writing and the atmosphere of the story was particularly impressive, managing to be both up-to-date and slightly reminiscent of the old-fashioned gumshoe novels of the 1920's and 30's. These components are skillfully combined to produce an immersive and thoroughly entertaining high-quality read. There is a fair amount of swearing in the dialogue which isn't something that I always particularly enjoy but in this case I believe that it was largely necessary to add authenticity to the character and I did not find it gratuitous or offensive. I should also mention that the emphasis of the plot is on the 'whodunnit' and the characters involved rather than blood and guts. It is not a graphic serial-killer type of book which suited me just fine. (It's more Ian Rankin than James Patterson).
If you enjoy crime fiction this is a must-read.
Next: The Silkworm, also by Robert Galbraith
After finishing 'The Cuckoo's Calling' I couldn't wait to start the sequel. This novel also features private investigator Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin. This time they are engaged to investigate the disappearance of an eccentric and erratic novelist.
In terms of character, plot development and atmosphere, I found this book to be just as good as the first in the series. The writer really does have a wonderful ability to bring the people on the page to life and to pull the reader into a vividly-drawn world. The plot is satisfying, with plenty of suspects and motives and is expertly drawn together. Again I found myself eager to get back to reading whenever I had to break away, resorting to carrying the book around the house with me to grab an extra few minutes here and there. I have to say, though, that the subject matter of this second book is much darker than the first and unpleasant/uncomfortable and just downright weird in places. But I like a little bit of weird now and again so it was not a problem for me.
I haven't read the third book yet but I am very much looking forward to it. This is now one of my favourite series of books and I hope she writes plenty more of the same quality.
And Finally: The Falls by Ian Rankin
If you like crime fiction you probably already know about Ian Rankin and his fictional creation, John Rebus and if it isn't your genre you probably haven't read this far so I won't spend too much time introducing you to the characters in this book. Suffice to say it is another masterpiece by, in my opinion, one of the very best in the business.
The plot centres around a missing student who arranges to meet a group of friends for a drink but doesn't show up. Rebus, as grouchy and flawed yet as loveable as always, investigates with his usual obsessiveness and disregard for the rules. The hunt for the missing girl brings him into contact with old friends and acquaintances and takes him down rabbit holes that no-one else is interested in. Meanwhile Siobhan (his usual sidekick) is pursuing her own angle, employing some of the tricks she has picked up from her boss.
The book follows different strands to the investigation leaving the reader uncertain as to which will lead to a dead end (no pun intended) and which will lead the team to the solution. It is a complex web of mystery and suspense against the backdrop of the sights and sounds of modern Edinburgh. I always find Rankin's books hugely satisfying and this one was among the best I have read, leaving me in awe at the talent required to pen such a tale.
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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