JK Rowling

Career of Evil [Book Review]

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Rating: 2/5

What’s in a name, right? Does it matter if she writes under a different name, a pseudonym- Robert Galbriath? It’s J.K.Rowling! My level of excitement for every work of hers has no bounds. Harry Potter would eternally be my most favourite and inspirational work I have ever read. I don’t think this choice of mine is ever going to change. I am sure it’s the same case with many. When she came up with the Coromoran Strike series, I jumped in joy especially because she was plunging into crime. What more do I need? J.K.Rowling is my inspiration. Hence, it’s really awkward and probably even inappropriate for me to actually review her work. Can I? I want to. Setting the author aside, I decided to review the book for what it actually is.

To be really honest, though it breaks my heart to accept this, Robert Galbriath isn’t as entertaining as J.K.Rowling. I know it’s really unfair to compare the Coromoran Strike series with THE Harry Potter series- for one- the genre is extremely different. It’s very evident that JKR wanted to try something very different, to break her shackles from her original style and create a different identity for herself- probably the reason behind using the pseudonym. But I feel, somewhere, something is extremely wrong at the basic level. Is it the characters or the plot or the narration- it’s extremely difficult to figure out.

Career of Evil is the third book in the Coromoran Strike series after The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. It follows the adventures of a sober private investigator, Coromoran Strike, an ex-army man who lost his left leg on duty, and his secretary cum assistant cum partner, Robin Ellacot, a smart young woman with huge interest in detection and investigation. I read the first two books within a few months of its release. I have to admit, I don’t remember much about either of the cases- almost nothing. It’s a boon that the books aren’t connected in any way except for the leads. I vaguely remember enjoying the first book, intrigued by the case of the second book, but both the books didn’t engage me completely till the end. I purchased Career of Evil nearly 6 months ago but something stopped me from picking it up. May be because I had better options on my shelf. I pushed myself to pick this book in spite of being weary of its size. Nearly 500 pages- definitely lesser than Game of Thrones, but yet.

To be fair, this book isn’t a “bad” one but it isn’t good either. It would be wrong of me to even use the word bad or even mediocre. I could feel the hard work and honesty behind this work. Robin is facing troubles with her fiancé, Mathew, who doubts her relationship with her boss, Strike. Though Robin clears it many a times that there is nothing between them, Mathew isn’t convinced. There are lot of arguments and friction as the day to their wedding approaches. Amidst this, Robin is sent a box with a left leg of a girl. No surprises, she is shaken. Strike is highly worried- no surprise. Robin can’t stop wondering the connection between the boxed leg and the fact that her boss is amputated with the same leg. Strike accepts the weird connection and lists down three names who could have done this to get back at him- to take revenge. Two from his past career and one from his family. Brockbank and Laing from his career and Whittaker from his family, his step father who allegedly killed his mother. Robin and Strike launches three separate lines of investigation. They also have two ongoing petty investigations which they can’t suspend as they are the only source of income to their business. Separate stories for Brockbank, Laing and Whittaker are narrated making the readers initiate their own investigation based on the psychology of the three suspects. The police, led by Wardle have their own investigation too. The story is set very well, I didn’t feel any kind of a stretch till probably 350 pages. But after that, I could feel the impatience burning in me.

350 pages done and yet the case seems to have no kind of a progress. I felt stuck with the same incidents, Robin and Mathew’s problems, Strike’s dilemma over Robin and his own love life, etc. We have the past of the suspects repeated again and again. At a point I felt Robin to be more involved in the case that Strike. Strike is a very interesting character no doubt but he is too dull and uncertain in this book. We are given three suspects, neither of them are interesting enough! They have the motive and the capability to perform gruesome acts, but- as a reader, I wanted to have more connection, perhaps more inclination towards the suspects in hand. During the entire time, I felt the murderer wasn’t any of the three as I didn’t feel them to be one. It’s a shame but I began skipping loads of portions as I wanted more action, something to happen in the story- which happened way at the end and in the most disappointing manner. We have chapters from the murderer’s point of view too, his obsession with Robin and his need to kidnap her and cause her pain, a way to get back at Strike. I felt this would be the opportunity to develop Robin and Strike’s relationship. We do catch a glimpse of Strike’s concern towards Robin, but the opportunity gets wasted completely. On the whole, what started as a very interesting and dangerous case fizzles out before it reaches the end.

A big shoutout to the language JKR has used in this book. It’s amazing. Her choice of words and the intricate meaning it brings out- a reader’s treat. Honestly, I didn’t know the exact meaning of several words, but that was the enjoyable part. You understand the context of the sentence even without knowing the exact meaning, but finding it out and setting the sentence correctly- I loved doing that. Please note- it’s not a flowery language. JKR knows the knack when to use complicated and uncommon words and when to keep it simple.

I would recommend this book purely for its language. As a crime fanatic, this book was a huge disappointment.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Rating: 3/5

No surprise, I was on cloud nine when I got to know JK Rowling (et al) was coming up with a new book. It didn’t matter if it was a novel or a play or just a short story. Being a Harry Potter fanatic, anything related to this magnificent series could get me jumping in joy. It would sound so silly and foolish, but the moment I held this beautiful hard cover book, I felt such endearing warmth. I guess only a fellow Harry Potter addict would understand this emotion.

From the time of the announcement, it was very clear that the book was a play and not a novel. The story resumes from where it left in the epilogue of the 7th book. It was quite a different experience to read Harry Potter as a play. There are no deep descriptions of the magical world as the entire narration is written as it would happen on stage. The entry and exit of characters, how the actors/characters give their expressions, the pauses, the beats- it definitely took me time to adjust to the transition. We don’t get an in-depth insight into any of the characters. May be on stage the emotions would be conveyed by the actors better, but as a book, you miss the emotional connect to the characters. It’s just a disappointment that this book could have scored better if it had been a novel than a play. I wish a novel version is released for the same story.

The play focuses on Albus Severus Potter and Scorpious Malfoy predominantly. They share an unbreakable friendship, quite opposite to what their fathers had when they were at school. Harry and Albus have a very strained relationship. Albus struggles being a Potter, the son of The Boy Who Lived. He is constantly bullied at school. Scorpious, on the other hand, is nothing like his father Draco. He is innocent and funny, and loyal. Both of them team up for an adventure, which goes horribly wrong, and therefore their parents have to step in to right their wrong. Vague enough? I didn’t want to divulge anything about the story.

The play has everything a Harry Potter fan would need, but everything caters to the stage. Hence, this limits the fantasising and visualizing element of the reader. We don’t get to see and feel Hogwarts like the way we did while reading the series. The spells and the other magic are hard to visualize, probably because the language used is for a script. The pace of the play is also on top speed, years pass in a matter of two pages. We don’t get to read THE Harry-Ron-Hermoine conversations. Ron, for one, is written as a completely funny character, forcefully funny, that it doesn’t seem like Ron at all. The older version of the trio isn’t as entertaining as I expected. When the trio get to Hogwarts, they address their once Professors by their first name or last name, which is kind of very hard to digest. I mean, Harry called Dumbledore as Dumbledore is, I don’t know, kind of shocked me. This magical world, after 19-20 years isn’t something I would want to be in. I am happy to be stuck in the past, in the old Hogwarts than the current one. In the entire 7 book series, the one thing which I found really hard to comprehend was the concept of the Time-turner (Book 3). This entire play is based on that and hence the read was pretty difficult for me.

The friendship of Albus and Scorpious is very endearing. To see a Potter and a Malfoy bond is truly magical. Harry has turned very boring. Ron and Hermoine are dull too. The play lacks the dry wit. I wish they had brought Dumbledore back in some way and given him a heroic scene of some sort. It’s still hard to get over his death in Book 6. I loved, loved, loved Severus Snape in this play. He was fantastic. Even if it was for just a few pages, he leaves a strong mark. That’s when I realised, Harry Potter (series) couldn’t have been a cult, a classic, if not for all the supporting characters- Snape, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Longbottom, Weasleys- they all brought in such beautiful charm to the series. With their presence very meagre in this play, I didn’t feel belonged in this Harry Potter world.

Yet-Yet-Yet. It would be unfair to compare this play with the series. The writers had made it very clear from the beginning that this was a play. Hence it would be wrong to expect it to be like a novel, written like a novel. The look and feel of the book is very good. It’s definitely a page turner. I haven’t read many plays and hence I couldn’t judge how effectively this one is written as a play. But as a story, it has a very interesting plot and manages to keep the readers interested till the end; though I am sure every reader will feel a void while reading.

Read it to feel nostalgic.