Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling) –
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group –
Genre: Crime, Noir Crime –
Overall rating: 5/5 (with minor reservations) –
Writing: 5/5 (with minor reservations) –
Duration: 15:53 (The Cuckoo’s Calling), 17:16 (the Silkworm), 17:54 (Career of Evil), 22:30 (Lethal White), 31:51 (Troubled Blood), 32:43 (The Ink Black Heart) (long and very long) –
Narrator: Robert Glenister –
Narrator/performance: 5/5 –
Impressions: 5/5 –
Performance errors: 0/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 3/5 –
Audience: General, Adult
So here I am, reviewing crime novels written by J. K. Rowling. To be perfectly honest, I never intended to read them. Only after a while I forgot the pseudonym under which they were written. I realized my mistake after two novels. Then, I thought, why not finish all of them.
Overall, I enjoyed the series. J. K. Rowling paints vivid, slightly unreal characters. This style fits not only fantasy, but also crime noir and sleuth crime genres very well. The first two novels are particularly enjoyable, reminding strongly of noir fiction despite being located in colorful, modern London. Third and fourth parts are different, concentrated more on societal expectations and strange villains. Part three – Career of Evil is tedious and very dark but devoid of humor and surrealistic images, reminding more of a low-rating thriller movie than an artistically accomplished noir crime novel (which may be said about the first two parts). I definitely did not enjoy the third part. After that, every novel is better than its direct predecessor, with The Ink Black Heart possibly one of the best novels ever written about cyber society.
I thoroughly enjoyed both Trouble Blood (part 5) an The Ink Black Heart but for different reasons. In Troubled Blood, I tried to spot the reasons for the online backlash J. K. Rowling experienced in connection with her public statements about transgender rights. I found the story engaging and original. The Ink Black Heart, in turn, was fascinating. The material for the novel clearly originated in the online backlash. Author’s observations about the perils of cyber society are truly insightful and very fresh.
There is, of course, the backlash. While reading the novels, I realized that an artist can only show what they hear and see. They are not expected to engage in social engineering. Authors are not required to think in any particular way. For example, I may be opposed to portraying characters always drinking alcohol. I may think that alcohol is very unhealthy, that it leads to addiction and that its consumption should not be promoted anywhere. Yet a drinking and smoking investigator is the core of a classic crime noir novel. I would not expect a modern writer to make their character an abstinent for any reasons other than artistic creation. Of course, there are writers who are able to show certain alternative opportunities for a society – Ursula K. LeGuin may be a good example of that. There have been, however, very few writers who could compete with LeGuin.
I did not find anything particularly offensive in any of the novels written under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. With the exception for the third novel which was cruel on too many levels, I immensely enjoyed these mysteries and, possibly, even learned something from them. If I were to choose only one, I would probably recommend The Ink Black Heart.
All six audiobooks are also very successful performances. Robert Glenister surprised me by having trouble with imitating only one thing – female upspeak. I was very impressed how well he managed certain mood changes and the challenge of reading tweets in an audiobook. The books are also funny in certain parts and the narrator handles the comic effects very well.
The covers were – of course – created in different styles across the short series (Troubled Blood completely different and The Ink Black Heart slightly different from the first four). I would not expect anything else, because, as we know, audiobook series covers made in one style are an anomaly. However, the first four covers look as if they were created by AI. Only the Ink Black Heart looks like a genuine cover in a successful literary series. I hope this style will continue further on.