Jessica, Hespeler | August 1, 2019
J.K Rowling is most famous for her wizarding world, including the mega-hit Harry Potter and the new movie franchise, Fantastic Beasts. Did you know she’s also written several other books, a standalone fiction and a mystery series written under the name Robert Galbraith?
Her standalone work, Casual Vacancy was the first book she published after finishing the Harry Potter series. It’s about small-town municipal politics, quite a departure from magic! Her mystery series, in contrast, is set in present-day London and features private investigator Cormoran Strike.
How do these books stack up against her more popular works? Let’s rate these non-wizarding books in a segment I call, Buy, Borrow, or Bust.
Buy: Career of Evil. By far the best book in the Cormoran Strike series, even if it is the third one. If you haven’t read the other books in the series you can still enjoy it. An enemy from Strike’s past is out to get him, threatening him with cryptic messages and a severed leg! This book is more gripping than the others in the series and you’ll have a hard time guessing the culprit. If you want to give the series a try without committing to all the books, give this one a read!
Borrow: Cuckoo’s Calling and Silkworm. It’s definitely worth reading the first two books in Rowling’s mystery series, but I wouldn’t say they are must-reads. The books have decent mysteries and do a great job of introducing you to Strike’s world and the cast of characters. What I really like about these books is Rowling gives you insight into the world of celebrity and fame (Cuckoo’s Calling) and into the world of book publishing (Silkworm) in a way that only someone with Rowling’s experience can give you. Check them out from us if you want to read them without buying them. You can also watch the television show which adapts the first three books in the series.
Bust: Casual Vacancy. Casual Vacancy deals with small town politics and it is a boring mess. Even for someone like me, who cares about politics more than the average person. Every horrible, seedy thing you can think of happens to the characters in this book, and not to further the plot, but just for shock value. Despite that, it’s still boring! Even the television adaptation can’t make this palatable. Skip it.
Bust: Lethal White. I would also recommend skipping Rowling’s latest Strike mystery. While not a bad story, in particular Strike’s business partner Robin gets more to do, this book is way too long and could have used some serious editing. The personal stuff of the two characters is predictable and dull and the mystery itself is easy to figure out. Just wait for the next Strike novel and hopefully it will be better.
I do have to give J.K Rowling kudos for branching out and writing new things instead of resigning herself to nothing but wizards. While none of the other books have captured the magic, or popularity, of Harry Potter, there are still some good reads on the list and Rowling proves she isn’t a one-trick pony.