Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith. Mulholland Books (Little, Brown and Company), New York; 2015. Hardback. 497 pages. ISBN: 978-0-0316-349933-2.

     I was reading and just finished Career of Evil, the third installment in Robert Galbraith’s* mystery series. Detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott receive a severed leg at the office and it soon becomes apparent that someone from Strike’s past is trying to destroy him through Ellacott. The plot twists several strands into the tale of a serial murderer and provides the reader with welcome information about the histories of the protagonists. We learn about some of the old SIB cases Strike believes have come to back to haunt him and find out the details behind Ellacott’s withdrawal from college. Interwoven into this tapestry are the impending nuptials of two couples: those of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the later ones of Ellacott and her fiancé, Matthew Cunliffe.

     The complexities of the plot allow Galbraith to highlight various kinds of violence against women and the different ways women react to it. While none come away unscathed, it was a relief to see some of the women fight back. Ellacott particularly shows unexpected strength, extricating herself from an attack from which we at first expect Strike will have to rescue her.

     The narrative suffers, though, from too many ostentatious lacunae, too many places where we are told someone will do something in a way that almost taunts us with the awareness that vital clues are being withheld. And in the end, the resolution rests on Strike failing to see something that turns out to have been too much right before his eyes for us easily to believe he could have missed it.

   Despite these flaws, Career of Evil is still a good read and, as a part of the kind of longer story that unfolds in a series, provides another layer of foundational information on which to continue to build more exciting mysteries for Ellacott and Strike to solve.

 

*Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling

Review of The Vintage Caper

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I was reading The Vintage Caper (Vintage Books, 2010; 0307389197), a work of charm and temptation by Peter Mayle. Detective Sam Levitt eats and drinks his way through Marseilles to solve the theft of five hundred bottles of rare wine belonging to an obnoxious Hollywood collector. The mystery is less the point of the novel than an excuse to write about life in southern France and to introduce us to some engaging characters. There are some nice little twists — the victim is more villainous than the perpetrator of the heist — but delightfully, there were no fraught car chases or moments of unbearable tension. The book is merely a joy from start to finish, and I am quite happy that it is the first in a series. I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with Mr. Levitt and friends in the next installment.

Review of A Good Year by Peter Mayle

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            Peter Mayle’s A Good Year (Vintage Books, 2005; 0375705627) provides a blueprint for how to revive one’s existence. One merely needs to give up one’s old life, inherit a vinyard in France, and give one’s self over to the pleasures of food, drink, countryside, and good company while solving a minor mystery or two. Mayle’s characters revel in the charms that Provence has to offer, and we enjoy every moment right along with them.

            The protagonist, Max Skinner, leaves London when he inherits his uncle’s estate in France. His hopes of making a fortune from it seem dashed when he discovers that the grapes seem to have been specially bred to make people gag. His life becomes even more complicated when a putative cousin shows up and threatens to throw a wrench into his already crumbling plans.

            The apparently minor mystery of the vinyard’s inability to produce palatable wine leads to convoluted schemes and mercenary villains. There are clever counter-schemes and a satisfying resolution. A Good Year invites us all in for Provecal banquet, and it is an invitation worth accepting.