J.K. Rowling returns with the fifth of her Cormoran Strike series of detective thrillers, and the blood flows fast.
At the opening, we find Strike at a pub—he’s never far from an adult beverage—when he’s approached by a young woman with a strange tale. Her mother, Margot Bamborough, a general practitioner, disappeared from her clinic—in 1974. Strike, working his first cold case, Googles the doctor’s name only to find that her disappearance had aspects in common with ones attributed to the very unpleasant Dennis Creed, who kidnapped, raped, murdered, and beheaded his victims—sometimes, in a choice that will raise red flags coming from Rowling, while dressed in women’s clothes. Now locked away, Creed is just one of the suspects who emerges in the course of Rowling’s overlong but propulsive yarn, each of whom seems to have the job of pulling Strike away from the elusive truth. Fortunately, he has Robin Ellacott, his associate, to get him back on course: He is the muscle and the mover, prosthetic leg notwithstanding, but Robin has a talent for ferreting just the right bits of information out of people. And what people there are: a supposedly drug-addicted colleague of Margot’s; the son of a cop who investigated the disappearance and slowly went mad in the process, leaving notebooks of speculation behind that increasingly turned toward the astrological and supernatural; prostitutes and minor drug dealers; a young man with a penchant for animal abuse; a philandering fellow, several of whose girlfriends wind up inconveniently dead; even a couple of vicious gangsters. Then there’s Creed himself, a minor Hannibal Lecter whom Strike takes pleasure in deflating: “She was murdered by a far more skillful killer than you ever were,” he tells the psychopath. Ouch! After wading through a barrel of red herrings, Rowling—beg pardon, Galbraith—delivers the real killer, the least obvious of the lot, and it’s a masterful, perfectly thought-through revelation.
Too long by a couple of hundred pages but still skillfully told, with a constantly gleeful interest in human awfulness.
Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020
Page Count: 944
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: today