The Drawing of the Three

The gunslinger came awake from a confused dream which seemed to consist of a single image: that of the Tarot deck from which the man in black had dealt (or purported to deal) the gunslinger’s own moaning future.

I really thought I had read more from these series, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered this book if I would have. So here we are, the second book in the Dark Tower series. Now I definitely understand people’s confusion about trying to tell this story/these stories in just one movie.

As usual with series, it’s a bit of a challenge to not spoil previous books, especially because I can’t remember anything from the first novel. Luckily, in these editions is a handy ‘Here’s What You Missed’ part before the story picks up again.

What you probably should know, starting these series, is that this is eerie Stephen King, not straight shooter/thriller Stephen King. There’s fantastical elements but also some that veer quite close to horror territory, and there’s not many straight plot lines. If you don’t mind that and are looking for (the build up of) an epic, I’d definitely recommend trying this series.

The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King, Sphere 1990

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies.

I’m one of those readers that thinks that if you read one (good) detective, you have read all of them. Of course, it’s very hard to be (completely) original, but I think detectives definitely suffer from one set-in-stone trope. The detective is a (grumpy) loser who will have to work hard to prove that he is right, after all.

Robert Galbraith (although by now everyone probably knows him to be a cover for J.K. Rowling) manages to at the same timer push the trope to the background and upholster it in a shiny new outfit. The author creates so many characters, so many (landscape) views, so many backgrounds, that it;s easy to forget about the detective case.

It was suicide, everyone thinks so. Except the brother of the famous model, and he wants Cormoran Strike to prove it. Likely and unlikely suspects, witnesses and friends pass through while Strike ties the ends together.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a thrilling, whirlwind, exciting novel you want to race through.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2013

The Circus of Ghosts

In his large house, in the most elegant part of London, the old and raddled Duke of Llannefydd poured whisky for himself and shouted.

Ik zou bijna een nieuwe categorie aanmaken voor ‘stoomtreinboeken’. Het soort boek dat een verhaal heeft dat (heel) langzaam op gang komt en dus doorzettingsvermogen en/of geduld van de lezer vraagt. The Circus of Ghosts is er namelijk zo’n eentje.

In de eerste 200 pagina’s van het boek worden vooral verschillende karakterlijnen door elkaar geweven. De twee circusartiesten, moeder en dochter, die naar Amerika zijn gevlucht. De advocatenzoon die op ze jaagt. De Engelse agent in New York. Er worden ook veel pagina’s besteed aan hoe New York halverwege de negentiende eeuw er uit zag. Dit gebeurt heel gedetailleerd en toont dus ook een mooie plaat, maar waarom de lezer de aandacht bij de karakters moet houden, blijft nog onbekend.

Vanaf die tweehonderdste pagina wordt er ineens met actie gesmeten. Reizen naar de andere kant van Amerika, sterfgevallen, ontvoeringen, kom maar op. De karakters worden samen een familie (op de bad guy na) en beginnen driedimensionaal te worden. Het wordt een feestje om met hun mee te lopen door de ranzige straten van New York en oei, zal alles toch wel goed aflopen?

Lezers met een lange adem kunnen daar zelf achterkomen.

The Circus of Ghosts, Barbara Ewing, Sphere 2011