This is the third volume in the continuing series of Cormoran Strike’s detective agency. Strike’s assistant and business partner, Robin, has been sent a severed leg, and Cormoran immediately has a few ideas about who might have sent it. While his business dries up in the face of the inevitable nasty publicity, he and Robin follow the leads that the police aren’t taking as seriously as Cormoran would like. Meanwhile, the killer stalks Robin from place to place, and she’s so upset by the issues going on with her fiance that she’s just about walking into the trap…
Of the three volumes I’ve read so far, this is definitely my favorite. That could be because it didn’t have as many issues as I remembered from the first two books (overly long explanation at the end of the first book, and stilted dialogue in the first half of the second book). It could be because I’ve gotten to know the characters and writing style better by now. However, I think the reason this worked better for me than the first two books (which I did enjoy despite my issues with them!) was that I listened to it on audio.
The Book Itself: Crime fiction, mysteries, and thrillers aren’t really my thing. I only read them rarely, and if I get into a series, like this one, it’s because of the writing and the characters. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is a good example of a crime series I plan to continue reading. The Cormoran Strike books are another. I like Cormoran, I adore Robin, and I like how wide-ranging and varied are the people they encounter. I think Galbraith (*coughRowlingcough*) does a lot of fantastic research on psychology, poverty (urban and rural), physical disabilities, inter-country variations in culture, and crime procedure. Furthermore, as the series goes along, I see improvements in writing and characterization, with overall growth of characters over time. So thumbs up on all of that.
The Audio Enhancement: Listening on audio helped me to hear the dialogue a bit better, and to deal with the constantly-shifting point of view. I’m still not a huge fan of the way the narrative switches in and out of various characters’ heads, sometimes on a sentence-by-sentence basis. I know it’s supposed to be omniscient, so I’m not sure if that kind of point of view just doesn’t work for me, or if it’s so rare that it’s unfamiliar when I hear it, or if it’s just hard to write and doesn’t come across well in this case. I did find it easier to understand on audio, though, because the narrator (Robert Glenister) had a way of making it very clear who was doing/thinking the action/thought at each moment. I definitely think I will listen to these books on audio from here on out – even though the audio sucked me in so quickly that I ended up listening to all sixteen disks in under two days, when I probably would have taken a week with the physical book. Totally worth it!
A Very Important Note: There is a lot of sexual violence, both historically and ongoing, discussed in the book. There is really no way to avoid it, either, as several of the suspects have histories of sex crimes. For the same reason, there’s also a lot of domestic abuse and child abuse (and child sexual abuse), so if any of those things are triggers for you, you’ll want to steer clear!
Performance: I mentioned that Robert Glenister did a great job of helping me to not be confused during all the point of view shifts. He was also a fantastic narrator in general. I loved his voices – listening to Cormoran was like listening to Hagrid, ha!! – and he did a great job making me feel the tension of the novel without ever pulling me out of the story. Last but definitely not least, all his various accents/dialects felt real instead of approximates. I generally have difficulty with accents and dialects in audiobooks, but I didn’t here, because Glenister did such a convincing job with them. It was almost like listening to a full cast, which is kinda awesome from a single narrator! Makes me want to revisit the first two books on audio!!