Book Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

I don’t think I’d be giving anything away if I mention that Robert Galbraith is just J.K. Rowling with a bloke’s name. The good thing about this is that you know you’re in for a stonking good read, and that’s exactly what you get with Silkworm.

18214414.jpgThis is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series (I say ‘series’, but I don’t know how many more she plans to write). Her hero, the surly one-legged war veteran turned private detective, finds himself immersed in the apparently vain, self-centred and generally grotesque arena of the publishing industry, while trying to find the murderer of a vain, self-centred and generally grotesque fiction writer.

First off, she must’ve had great fun writing this book: there is not one redeeming feature in anyone working in the industry, so much so that at several points during the novel I found that I probably didn’t care who did it. Publishers, agents, novelists (industry-published and self-published) are gloriously savaged without restraint. What saves the day is the relationship between the main characters (the detective and his secretary), and the secretary’s ongoing clashes with  her fiance. Unlike the first book, in which the murder was the plot’s main driver, I got the feeling that solving the crime took something of a back seat this time round, which was unfortunate because I think I was a little less interested in who did it by the time I reached the big reveal.

Still, Cormoran and Robin are such great characters, so there was more than enough to sustain my interest to the very end. Looking forward to the next one.

Seven out of ten.

 

Book Review: The Night Following by Morag Joss

This one was an impulse buy; I hadn’t read a book in a while (smacked wrists), so I picked up The Night Following when it showed up in one of those marketing email shots. Definitely a case of expecting one thing and getting something else entirely.
I’m tempted to say that it’s one story told from three viewpoints, but it’s much more than that. It’s three separate stories that are loosely intertwined, so much so that the writing style changes as you move from character to character.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it starts with a road accident, a hit-and-run, and spirals outward from there, weaving the story in the past and the present.
It’s beautifully written, as close to literary fiction as you can get with a novel like this, though I did think that the characterisations perhaps lacked a bit of dimension. I wasn’t too sure about the ending, but endings are very subjective things.

Still, even if this isn’t your usual sort of thing, the book is an excellent study in writing style, especially if you’re looking to blend them in the same novel. I actually enjoyed, and I’ll pick up another Morag Joss in the future.

Marks? Mmmm . . . Eight out of ten.

Review: Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

This isn’t a novel, it’s a biography, and I don’t usually read biographies. But having finished this one a few hours after I started reading it, then it’s fair to say that I’ll be reading a lot more.

escape-from-camp-14

Escape from Camp 14 tells the amazing story of Shin Dong-hyuk, a Korean  born with an automatic life sentence within the walls of the country’s most notorious political prison. The author, brilliantly, details the inhuman treatment the prisoners receive,  and reflects poignantly on how the existence of such places affects the people of North Korea as a whole.  A brief history of the country and the conditions the population live under (fear, starvation) is weaved throughout the book, giving the reader a clear context through which to follow Shin’s story.

Make no mistake, this is a harsh read that, at times, beggars belief: the torture, both mental and physical;  the systematic stripping of  another human being’s humanity from birth until they die from exhaustion or starvation – it’s all here, laid out in a plain, no-nonsense style that unapologetically leaves nothing to the imagination.

The book follows Shin from his birth to his miraculous escape, then traces his difficult adjustment to freedom beyond the walls of Camp 14. In many ways, this is just as harrowing as reading about his time inside the prison, giving an idea what it is like for people who emerge into the world following a long and unjust incarceration.

An excellent book, thoroughly recommended. Five out of five (I’d give it six if I could).