Waiting on a Wednesday: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is J.K Rowling.

Yes, I’m pretty sure we all know that now and I feel safe in the knowledge that I haven’t just broken the internet.

career of evil

The protagonist of Galbraith’s novels is as about as far removed from a certain boy wizard as it is possible to get. He has a far less prosaic name for a start, but a far more prosaic profession. For a character in a novel, anyhow. Cormoran Strike is a private investigator who, when we first meet him in The Cuckoo’s Calling, is not enjoying much luck. He has just separated from his fiancee, with whom he has had a long and tempestuous relationship, is heavily in debt and has very few clients. Strike isn’t quite what you would call a ‘people person’, something compounded by the difficulties he faces as an amputee (a former soldier, Strike lost a leg during the Afghan War).

Strike is a brilliant character and it is his relationship with his (female) assistant, Robin Ellacott, that really makes this series for me. Robin starts off as the temp that Strike cannot afford. Slowly, he realises the worth of this intelligent, competent young woman and she becomes invaluable in helping him solve cases. Their relationship is beautifully drawn and a scene from the second novel, The Silkworm, in which they are driving on a motorway in bad weather is one of my all-time favourites.

It is the strength of Robin and Cormoran’s relationship, which does have a tantalising ‘will they-won’t they’ element to boot, that is powering my anticipation for the third in the series, Career of Evil (due to be published in the UK on 22nd October by Sphere). However, these novels are also very well written, with compelling plots and intriguing casts of characters. They are very contemporary in flavour, with grisly, complex cases at their heart. There is also a distinct nod to the Golden Age detective story. Both novels have Christie-esque lists of possible suspects and buckets of red herrings. Like Agatha in her prime, Galbraith gives the reader all the clues they need to solve the puzzle: can they work it out before Strike does?

In Career of Evil, Robin receives a mysterious package, only to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Strike identifies four people from his past who could be responsible, taking matters into his own hands when the police focus their enquiries on the one person he is sure couldn’t be the perpetrator. As Robin and Cormoran investigate the lives of three men capable of extreme violence, they face danger and a race against time.

I can’t wait!

Waiting on a Wednesday: The Lake House by Kate Morton

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I am excited about this one. Very excited. This is how excited I am. I pre-ordered The Lake House on May 8th and it is due out in the UK on … 22nd October (20th October in the US and Canada; 21st October in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a wonder I haven’t thought about upping sticks to the States just to get the book two days earlier …. Oh!).

Kate Morton is probably the only author whose works I anticipate to such a level. Why? The short answer is that I have loved every single one of her previous books: The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, and The Secret Keeper. Morton’s books bring me closest to that magical, spellbound feeling my childhood reading brought me. She is a consummate storyteller.

Morton writes what I would describe as Contemporary Gothic novels, which tell tales of the past haunting the present and have classics like Jane Eyre and Rebecca as their literary grandmothers. They are usually set in dual time periods and involve a character from the present coming to terms with their past, and/or solving some kind of mystery from the past, typically within their own family. There is a formula at work here, then, but for me, things never get formulaic with Morton: I always know, roughly, what I am going to get and she always delivers.

The Lake House sticks with this formula and promises another spellbinding read. There is a great synopsis on Morton’s own website so I shall avoid going into unnecessary detail here. All I will say is, roll on October 22nd!

Any other Kate Morton fans out there eagerly anticipating The Lake House? Let me know! Then take your place behind me in the queue …

Waiting on a Wednesday: The Hunter’s Kind by Rebecca Levene

The Hunter's Kind

This is the first post in what will probably be an occasional series as, at present, there aren’t that many books I am itching to get my hands on. This one, however … goodness me. I am seriously considering scheduling my summer holiday around its release. I am that excited. The Hunter’s Kind is due to be released, by Hodder and Stoughton, on 2nd July and, according to Amazon, I pre-ordered it on 27th February so … yes.

So why all the excitement? Well, The Hunter’s Kind is the second volume in the Hollow Gods series, an epic fantasy series by Rebecca Levene. The first volume, Smiler’s Fair came out last summer and was,  in my opinion, one of the best novels published in 2014.

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The setting for this series is Ashanesland, a universe once inhabited by the Sun goddess Mizhara and her brother, the Moon god Yron. Both are long dead, Yron having been defeated and killed by his sister during a long and devastating war. The deities’ legacy dominates their former kingdom as well as the novel. Yron’s erstwhile servants, known as the worm men, cannot venture into sunlight and dwell in shadow. Permanent dwellings cast the shadows so beloved of these feared creatures so, to avoid the monsters’ wrath, everything and everyone in this universe is in constant flux. That includes the eponymous carnival Smiler’s Fair. If the earth is covered for too long, the worm men come, bringing death in their wake. Once the first death is reported, the fair must move before other deaths follow.

The gods’ legacy frames the novel in another way. The plot is driven by a prophecy, namely that the King of Ashaneland’s unborn son will be the heir of Yron, a saviour who will overthrow and kill his father. The King is, understandably, keen to avoid this fate and vows to have the baby killed as soon as it is born. The Queen, in a bloody and startling opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the book, saves her son’s life. The surviving child has silver moon eyes, to many a sign of evil and a clear sign of a connection to the Moon god Yron. This child is ignorant of his destiny and is raised as the goatherd, Krish.

Alongside Krish is a whole cast of compelling characters who all have equally compelling, and often interconnecting, story arcs of their own. There is Eric, the prostitute (or sellcock  in Hollow Gods parlance), who becomes invisibly bound  to Krish by another prophecy that ties him to the overarching narrative. There is Nethmi, a young girl forced into marriage. Nethmi is particularly intriguing as Levene takes what I feel is the refreshing and unusual step of allowing her young, pretty female character to be unattractively flawed. We also have Marvan, who would definitely shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, so fond is he of taking lives. Then a special word for my own very special favourite, the gruff warrior with a kind heart he seeks to hide, Dae Hyo. In line with the beliefs of his vanquished warrior tribe, Dae Hyo believes men to be the weaker sex. Little clue as to his great appeal for me right there. There is also an ageing Mage whose powers appear to be waning and the obligatory bastard son, both of whom seek Krish, though for very different reasons.

For me, the magic of Smiler’s Fair lies in its characters and the hugely satisfying way in which they connect with one another. The plot also moves at a fair old pace, unlike other works of epic fantasy such as, to state the massively obvious, A Song of Ice and Fire. Consequently, the pay-offs in this novel – such as two main characters meeting and joining forces in joyous bromance fashion – are more frequent. The prophecy-laden plot is absolutely gripping, too. In short, I cannot wait for The Hunter’s Kind because I am agog for more clues as to the ultimate destinies of these vividly drawn characters and to see how they will continue to connect with one another along the way.

If you are in any way intrigued and this series has so far escaped your notice, I will wait here while you go and investigate Smiler’s Fair. Then you can pop back and join me as we count down the days to the release of The Hunter’s Kind. If you are already all caught up with the series, please let me know your thoughts. Are you as excited as me (if that is humanly possible) or not (in which case, we might have to have an animated yet good natured exchange about the whole thing)?

Recap: The Hunter’s Kind will be published by Hodder and Stoughton on 2nd July and I very much think you should read it. You may investigate here.