The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Rating:
Author: Stuart Turton
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction
Pub. date: Feb. 2018 (read Mar. 2019)

Where do I start with this book? It has such great reviews on Goodreads and I was super excited to read it, but honestly every time I picked this up I found myself literally starting to fall asleep after a single chapter. I really can’t explain it, the plot is totally bonkers but for some reason I just didn’t find it compelling. The book did pick up around the 50% mark and I found it a bit easier to read, but it’s so confusing in the first half that it was just painful to read.

The plot synopsis is super compelling though. The story is set at Blackheath Manor, home of the wealthy Hardcastle family. It’s not clear what year the story is set – there’s both cars and carriages in the story so it’s certainly not modern day and had a bit of an old-timey feel to it, with maids, butlers, and footmen. The Hardcastles have invited a ton of guests to the manor for a party, but what they don’t know is that at the end of the night, their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered, though it won’t look like a murder.

Enter our main character, Aiden Bishop. Aiden wakes up in the body of one of the party guests, Sebastian Bell, with absolutely no memory of who he is or how he got there. Through a series of events, he is tasked with determining who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. The catch is that every day he will wake up and re-start the day of Evelyn’s death in the body of a different guest. He will have 8 hosts and therefore, 8 chances to re-live the same day and solve the crime.

Confusing right? But also, super compelling! Why is Aiden stuck in this body-snatching loop, we have no idea, but the idea is certainly intriguing. Overall I thought this was the most well done part of the book. Did I love the writing or the way the characters were portrayed? No, but I liked how the personalities and quirks or each host influenced Aiden’s abilities and slowly started to take over his mind the longer he was in their body. He moves from the cowardly doctor, to the quick-witted Lord, to the perverted creep, to the clever cop, all of who aid and hinder him in his search for the truth.

There’s a lot going on in this book. I won’t get into the intricacies of the plot, but as you can imagine, with 8 different hosts, plus several rival hosts, and tons of party guests – the cast of characters and sequence of events becomes easily confused. It is somewhat effective to chuck your reader into the middle of story without any preamble, because it helps them to relate with Aiden, who has absolutely no memories prior to waking up as Sebastian Bell. It’s just as confusing for the reader as it is for Aiden. But this only takes your reader so far. If they can’t eventually make sense of the story, it makes for a confusing and frustrating read.

There is a really fine line with mystery novels. You want to trick your readers and leave them guessing, but you also want to give them enough information to encourage them to try and solve the mystery themselves. For me, the most satisfying mystery novels are the ones where I think I have things figured out and then the author throws you for a loop with a killer twist and then totally blows your mind (Alice Feeney’s, Sometimes I Lie, and Riley Sager’s, The Last Time I Lied, come to mind – also pretty much anything by Ruth Ware). Mystery books that give you nothing annoy me. I love a twisted, clever plot, but when it’s too convoluted, I don’t even bother trying to think up what happened and it kind of takes the fun out of it. JK Rowling’s latest book in the Cormoran Strike series suffered from this and I wrote a review for that book about how I dislike the dramatic multi-chapter info-dumps for convoluted plots like this. (I love this series though and the characters! Her latest plot was just a little too confused)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is definitely a clever plot, I’ll give Turton that. He says in his acknowledgements that he spent 3 years working on this book and I believe it. Any book that looks at the same day 8 times is going to require a tightly plotted story. But there were just too many unexplained details in this book to keep me interested. I do think there’s overdoing it, and for me, this story got lost in the plot. I also disliked how he had Aiden’s different hosts following up on these leads without including us, the reader, in them! Like when Ravencourt starts leaving these random notes everywhere and Rashton was secretly recruiting support to confront Daniel? Turton just sprung those things on his readers without really explaining them. The plot is so convoluted, you can include your reader in some revelations without worrying they’ll solve the mystery. I need some pay-off to follow along with this 450 page book. I don’t want to invest in a confusing mess of a story for this long with no pay-off until the last 10%. Especially if your ending is going to be as f-ed and anti-climatic as this one was (more on that later).

Overall, this book was just too long. We have to read about every single thing all 8 hosts do without even getting any of Aiden’s revelations or clues. I felt like Aiden was getting nowhere with his investigations for 80% of this book and then suddenly he has all the answers? I really wish Turton had taken us on that journey with him. I actually quite liked the story arc with the 19-year old murder mystery and I thought that death was actually easier to solve and we had more clues to work with. But the present day death was a bit of a mess.

The idea of the 8 different hosts was definitely a clever one, but it was pretty painful to read. I’m really unsure what to think about the author or Aiden after reading this book. The fatphobia was disgusting. Can I believe someone would struggle to suddenly be in an obese body? Sure, but we’re supposed to like Aiden and he’s just so fat-phobic when he’s in Ravencourt’s body, it’s awful and I hated him for it. I don’t have a problem with an author writing from this lens if that’s integral to their character (ie, it’s a shitty character and we’re not meant to like them), but because we’re supposed to like Aiden, I place the blame on the author and I really don’t think the fat shaming had any reason to be in this novel. The descriptions were over the top and insulting and went way beyond mere discomfort with a body.

Also, why are none of the hosts women? I mean, thank god none of the hosts were women because I really wasn’t looking forward to reading from the perspective of a man in a women’s body after the mess that was Ravencourt, but like, what are the odds none of the 8 hosts would be women? Seems unlikely. This story was really about men though. The women are all secondary characters and only ever really serve as props to move Aiden’s story forward. This book was published in 2018, like come on, I’m so done with stories with women as props.

But my biggest problem with this book was the flimsiness of the time-travel theory. There’s all kinds of different time-travel theories out there. There’s the “everything is destined to happen” theory a la Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and The Time Traveller’s Wife, where everything that happens in the future is present in the past (ie. future Harry saves past Harry and knows it’s possible because he saw himself do it in the past). In this kind of time-travel theory, you don’t really have any ability to change time. You may not know all of what the future holds, but any interactions with future selves will be the same from both sides of the time travel.

The other theory that comes to mind is the Back to the Future type of time travel, where every action has a direct result on the future, such as Biff going back in time to give himself the Almanac. In this scenario Marty can no longer return to the present because the past has created an alternate future.

I’m going to get into some light spoilers on the type of time travel used in this book now if you want to tap out of the review.

It becomes clear from pretty early on in the novel that Turton is employing the first type of time-travel. Aiden interacts with future hosts and his future hosts also interact with past hosts to ensure the same sequence of events. Presumably his last host creates a compendium of all his interactions that he gifts to Anna because she has a book that she uses in every new life to ensure the days proceed as instructed by Aiden’s future host. I struggled with this type of time travel for this book because if everything is pre-destined, how is Aiden ever supposed to solve the murder? He tries several times to change the day, but ultimately his characters always follow the same course, which makes him a passive player in the whole thing. We learn this is not his first loop inhabiting these 8 bodies and the order of the hosts does change, but it all seems pre-destined to me, so what’s the point. Everyone’s just playing a role for the other hosts and nothing you do is ultimately going to change that.

But where things really get messed up is that he eventually does break the loop. He’s supposed to wake up one of his past hosts in the middle of the night with a message, but he never does, so wouldn’t that make the whole thing collapse? If he never wakes a host up, then it shouldn’t have happened in past host’s timeline. He eventually does appear to follow the rest of the loop, but once it changed I was like, what kind of theory are we following here?? The plague doctor encouraged Derby to give the compass to Bell because otherwise the whole timeline would change, impacting future Aiden, but then he goes and changes it later anyways with seemingly no consequence.

I also thought the ending was weak. I’m going to get into MAJOR spoilers now.

The whole “Blackheath is a prison” thing actually didn’t bother me that much. At least it was an explanation that was somewhat clever. But the whole thing with Anna was poorly done. First of all, despite all their interactions, Aiden and Anna have virtually no relationship. Aiden decides to trust Anna even though she’s done nothing to warrant his trust. His decision to trust her comes before she saves his life, but after he sees her with the Footman attempting to kill him. Why on earth would he trust her after that?? It made no sense. Plus, we have absolutely no sense of who Anna really is because the interactions between Anna and Aiden, while important to the plot, have no character depth or development.

I feel like the author was trying to bring some depth to his story by making it this whole “redemption plot” to move his readers or something. But it was too little, too late for me. If you want me to think Anna is a good person, you should have invested in her character more. You can’t just throw in this bombshell that she’s a horrible murderer at the end of the story and then expect us to buy into her redemption. “It’s okay, Aiden thinks she’s redeemed even though he has absolutely no evidence and can’t remember the 1000 loops that came before, but we should just trust his gut feeling anyways.” NO.

Mostly Aiden was just an enigma to me. Sometimes he was heavily influenced by the personality of his hosts, while other times he was extremely adamant in his morals and feelings. He loved Evelyn based on one interaction with her as Bell, even though all the other evidence from his other hosts indicated she kind of sucked. Also, what was up with Daniel? Now that was a more compelling character, but I didn’t really get how things worked for Daniel and Anna. Didn’t they wake up every day with no memory? I understood Anna because Aiden gave her a book of instructions to follow, but what’s up with Daniel? Would he do the same thing every day or was he different every day? Presumably he had to be the same based on the type of time travel the author employed for Aiden, so wouldn’t he just be doing the same thing for 8 days of every loop? I have no idea really. How did he know about Ravencourt’s letter? Overall, it felt like there’s still a lot of unanswered questions. Why was Bell’s arm all shredded? What happened in previous loops to make Aiden like Anna? Why did the Senior Mr. Hardcastle have to die? How did Aiden figure out who the real Evelyn was? Also, are we just going to skip over the fact that Hardcastle’s response to his artist beating the shit out of his butler is just to string him up in the gatehouse? WTF?!

So that’s my review. It’s long, so I mean, props to the author that his novel did have enough depth to write a review like this, but overall I thought it was flawed. I’m going to give 2 stars because, while I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s undoubtedly clever and original and I think he deserves props for that. Plus, clearly a lot of people really like this book. I wouldn’t recommend this book, but I also wouldn’t be deterred from reading it, except for the fat shaming. That was terrible.

Murder in Mesopotamia

Rating: 
Author: Agatha Christie
Genres: Mystery
Pub date: 1936 (read Dec. 2018)
Series: Hercule Poirot #14 (these books don’t need to be read in order)

Agatha Christie was a new discovery for me last year. I absolutely loved And Then There Were None and proceeded to read a few of her Hercule Poirot books. So far I haven’t been able to find a book that can compare to And Then There Were None, but it’s fun to jump into one of her classic closed room mysteries every now and then.

Murder in Mesopotamia is set on a dig in Iraq and is narrated by Nurse Leatheran, who has joined the archaeological expedition to support the dig leader’s wide, Mrs. Leidner, who has been becoming increasingly antsy. Mrs. Leidner is distraught and seems to fear for her life, but the rest of the expedition chalks it up to anxiety. Some odd things take place in the compound where the entire expedition is staying and when one of the household turns up dead, the local authorities recommend calling in Hercule Poirot (who is just returning from his ride about the Orient Express). What follows is a classic character examination of all of the members of the expedition and a study of means, method, and motivation for committing the crime.

I didn’t love this book as much as some of her others because I thought it was a bit slow to get going and there are a lot of characters, so it’s a bit hard to keep track of everyone. That said, much of what happens in the early parts of the book set the scene for the rest of the book and are important in solving the mystery. I really like Christie’s closed door mysteries because you know the killer is one of the individuals in the room, so you’re never sure who you can trust. I did think this one was somewhat predictable (I had it narrowed down to one of two people), but the question of how they got away with it was clever and I liked that the crime had several layers to it.

I don’t have much to say about the book overall, but I wanted to review it anyways since I didn’t review any of the Christie books I read last year and I’m bound to forget about this one pretty fast if I don’t. I have a few more Poirot books on my shelf that I’d like to get to and I’m also interested to read some of her Ms. Marple series. Does anyone have any specific Poirot or Marple recommendations?

Truly Devious

Rating: 
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Pub date: Jan. 2018 (read Dec. 2018)

Well this was a huge disappointment. I’ve heard pretty good things about Truly Devious on Booktube and I was really looking forward to reading it. I was expecting a bit of an Agatha Christie type mystery with the secluded setting and isolated cast of characters, but this book pretty much failed to deliver on almost every front in my opinion and was extremely disappointing.

Truly Devious is set at an elite boarding school in the mountains outside Vermont. The school was constructed and sponsored by Albert Ellingham, a wealthy businessman in the 1930’s. Students are not charged to attend the school, but they do have to go through a rigorous application process to be accepted for two years – their junior and senior years of high school. Unfortunately, the school has a bit of a dark history. Albert’s wife and daughter were kidnapped from the school in 1936 and a student was killed. While someone was prosecuted for the crime, many believe the real criminals were never caught and the crime never solved.

Stevie Bell is a crime aficionado and hopes to one day work in law enforcement. She has extensively studied the Ellingham murders and is accepted to Ellingham based on her interests. However, once there, strange events start to occur that Stevie believes may be connected to the original crime and she takes it upon herself to investigate.

My biggest problem with this book was that I thought it was very poorly plotted. It’s a book about murder, it should be engaging, but somehow the beginning is incredibly slow and it took about half the book for things to finally start to get interesting. The story is told in two timelines, jumping back and forth between 1936 and present day. The 1936 storyline is probably only about 20-30% of the book and takes you through some of the events of the original crime. Unfortunately though, I found this timeline REALLY boring. For some reason Johnson takes the whole book to reveal the extent of the original crime. I really don’t think this was effective because she forces you to read all these knit-picky accounts of what happened without really telling us what happened. I don’t care what the maid and the cook were up to because I don’t even know what really happened. Plus, in the current day story, everyone knows what happened and references it, but it’s just confusing because we don’t have all that much information about it.

Secondly, the current day plot is also really boring. The first 200 pages is pretty much just Stevie adjusting to life at Ellingham and nothing really gets going until about halfway through. We are introduced to the other characters and students at the school, but it’s really not very compelling until more mysterious stuff starts to happen. Plus, Stevie just felt really juvenille to me. I’ve been starting to think that I may finally be growing out of YA, but then a really great YA book will come along and remind me why anyone can love YA. But this reminded me a little bit of Ten by Gretchen McNeil (another YA mystery novel I read earlier this year) where I kind of just felt like I was reading about caricatures of teenagers.

Mostly I think this just wasn’t clever. I feel like Johnson tried to create a larger sweeping storyline and mystery (since this is going to be a multi-book series), but it didn’t work. The plotting just really failed for me. There’s two crimes going on simultaneously, as well as a ton of characters that act really suspiciously to make you wonder what they’re hiding. But at the end of the book, NEITHER of the crimes are solved. Look, I’m all for multi-book, ongoing plotlines, but you have to give us something in this book. There are tons of mystery series with ongoing character issues, but they at least address some of the crimes in each novel. I feel like Johnson tried to weave in some different mystery elements and things to wonder about, like Janelle’s missing pass and how there was something off about Hayes and David. But overall I thought the mystery was just lacking. There was no hook. We’re supposed to wonder about the 1930’s crime, but it really needed some kind of interesting hook to get you to care, and it didn’t have that. It really just read like a classic hostage/ransom situation and there was nothing that made me wonder how the culprit got away with it.

Likewise, Johnson came up with some small things on the modern day crime that clued Stevie in that there was something else going on and led her to an accusation, but again, I just didn’t think it was that clever and I wasn’t impressed with it. There are still just so many open-ended questions at the end of this book that I really wonder what even happened for 400 pages. The author didn’t really resolve any of the plot questions, everything was left open ended, even down to the riddle from Ellingham’s desk. It’s just very unsatisfying for a reader and makes me question why I wasted time reading 400 pages of nothing. The climax was weak and literally nothing is resolved. It felt like the book just ended when there should have been another 50 pages to clue up some plot points. I think it might come down to the fact that this is just not a strong enough mystery to suspend over multiple books. It’s not layered at all and I honestly just don’t care. Why bother? Do I want to know what happened? Yes, of course, but will I be reading a second book to find out? Not likely.

So overall I think it’s safe to say I didn’t like this one. In addition to the plot being weak, I thought the characterization was also weak. I don’t think Stevie really grew at all in this book and I didn’t really learn anything meaningful about any of the characters. David pissed me off the entire book. He was rude and I had whiplash from his constantly changing moods. Plus I thought the cliffhanger was dumb. What right does David ever have to be mad about anything Stevie has done when he’s sitting in a NEST OF LIES. Janelle and Nate were pretty much the only likeable characters.

Props to you if you liked this one, but I’ll be taking a pass on subsequent books. I’m between 1 and 2 stars with this one. I definitely didn’t like it, but I don’t like rating books 1 star unless they have some really problematic elements because hey, the author still wrote a whole book, which is a lot more than I can say.

You

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pub date: Sep. 2014 (read Nov. 2018)

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it is definitely unlike anything I’ve read before and I thought the author did a great job on blurring the lines of morality and exposing our human ability for empathy.

I was really intrigued about this book because I heard it was written in 2nd person and it’s not a POV that we often see. It didn’t have quite the same shock value I was anticipating because I was already expecting this to be creepy and it reminded me a little of JK Rowling’s, Career of Evil, which is partially told from the point of view of a serial killer. It also reminded me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both protagonists are obsessive and violent and have a very flawed way of looking at the world. But even though both of these books are told from the point of view of the villain, You definitely had a unique narrative style that I think was very effective in this story.

You tells the story of Joe Goldberg, a book seller who meets a woman named Beck in his shop and falls hard and fast for her. His whole world centers around Beck; he hacks her email and manipulates her and those around her in order to insert himself into her life. Joe’s voice is jarring and crude, but felt authentic. I’m curious what kind of research Kepnes did for this book because Joe definitely suffers from mental illness and I would like to know how she got into his mindset. Even though it’s crude, I say his voice is authentic because some of the things he says definitely mirrors some of the offensive things men say on the internet and in toxic tinder threads.

Joe eludes to another woman he’s been obsessed with in the past and it becomes obvious that he is extremely troubled and has stalked and hurt people before. He doesn’t have personal social media accounts, but he has learned how to manipulate other people’s accounts to discover disturbing amounts of information about them. Kepnes explores so many themes in this book, one of which being the way social media has transformed our lives and the inherent dangers of it.

Personally, I didn’t find the social media stalking that creepy, but I think that is probably a byproduct of having read this in 2018 as opposed to 2014 when it was originally published. Social media has really blurred the lines and changed what hasn’t always been considered appropriate social behaviour. It’s so easy now to cyber-stalk people that I think many of us don’t even really think twice about it. We’ve become accustomed to having instant access to information, and while most of us aren’t trying to figure out where people live so we can stalk them, I think the average person does a lot more creeping on others than say 10 years ago.

Social media has also normalized some pretty asshole-like behaviours. People feel bolder voicing their thoughts and opinions on the internet than they do in person and repeatedly seeing hurtful and violent opinions voiced on the internet emboldens other people to say more hurtful and violent things in turn. Internet trolls have made it the norm to harrass and bully people (disproportionately women) who threaten their way of life or thought. Suddenly it’s okay to send death threats to female gamers who call for better depictions of women in video games, or say hateful things about immigrants and refugees just trying to escape their unfortunate circumstances. Joe has come to believe that he is entitled to a relationship like those he has seen depicted in books and movies and that there is no consequence too high to achieve that relationship.

But I think the main theme Kepnes explores is our human nature to want to root for someone. It becomes increasingly clear to the reader that Joe is sick, and yet Kepnes somehow makes you care about him. It makes you wonder what that says about you as a person and how you can have anxiety about a stalker potentially getting caught! Part of you wants Joe to get caught with what he’s doing, you know it’s eventually inevitable, yet at the same time you’re like, ‘OMG Joe, how could you let it slip you know her favourite movie is Pitch Perfect, she’ll guess you’re cyber stalking her!’, ‘Don’t go into her apartment, what if you get caught!’, ‘Be careful around Peach’s beach house, they might see you!’ You simultaneously want him to get caught for the betterment of everyone involved, but at the same you worry for him….the crazy stalker.

The other thing I liked about this book is that Kepnes made her other characters incredibly flawed. I think this probably helped in our ability to empathize with Joe, but the fact that Beck, Peach, and Benji are all self-obsessed, toxic people too messes with your head even more. It would be easier to condemn Joe if they were all perfectly lovely people, but they are all extremely flawed to the point that you start understanding why Joe hates them all. They’re all pretty annoying and you find yourself wishing them out of the picture as well because they are foils to Joe and Beck’s happiness, but at the same time, you know none of their actions are justification for what Joe does to them. I thought Peach was an especially great character because she’s also super obsessed with Beck and is super dislikable, but she still stays firmly on the ethical side of the line. In the same way, Beck is also a very unlikable character, which makes it easier to empathize with Joe, which makes you think you’re going crazy to actually empathize with the stalker!

I can’t pinpoint exactly why I didn’t love this. I think it’s a pretty solid 3.5 stars, but I sometimes struggle with disturbing plots like this and I think that prevented me from loving it. I appreciate these kind of books because they make me think, but they also creep me out so much, especially when they mess with your mind.

I fully anticipated how this book would end, although I did really hope I would be wrong. Overall, I am impressed with the book, but I have no desire to see this series any further. I didn’t realize it had a second book until I was almost done this book (I thought Hidden Bodies was a completely unrelated novel), but I don’t think I can see this story through any farther. As sad as it was, I liked the ending of this book and I think You works well as a standalone.

I have my book club discussion of this book tomorrow and I suspect it is going to have mixed reviews, so I’m excited to see what the rest of my club thinks of this one!

Lethal White

Rating:
Author: Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pub date: Sep. 2018 (read Oct. 2018)
Series: Cormoran Strike Book #4

Wow, I feel like I have been waiting for this book FOREVER… pretty much because I have been. I know Rowling’s busy making movies and writing plays, but I love her writing so much, I always crave more books from her (not screenplays – totally doesn’t not count in my opinion).

Okay, so I obviously loved this because I love everything Rowling writes and I’m obsessed with both Robin and Strike, but I do have one compliant about this novel. It’s nothing unexpected, but I’m kind of tired of Rowling’s style of mystery reveal. I do think she is genius at writing mystery. Harry Potter has some of the best mystery elements and I love the way Rowling can carry a story arc (and mystery plot) through several novels. Prisoner of Azkaban is the favourite book of so many Harry Potter fans and most of what it made it so beloved for me is Sirius’ storyline. Rowling does a wonderful job misleading us to his notoriety throughout the entire book, only to completely blow everyone’s minds with like 3 chapters of plots twists at the end.

I adore this structure in Prisoner of Azkaban and I liked it at the start of the Strike novels, but I find she relies heavily on this structure in all of her mysteries, with the exception maybe of Career of Evil, which I found very refreshing in that she only had 4 (I think?) suspects for the serial killer. Lethal White reminded me a little bit of The Silkworm in that I knew I was never going to guess the mystery. There’s such a large cast of characters and their relationships are so intertwined that I knew there was going to be a huge convoluted reveal at the end that I was never going to guess (same as The Silkworm). Because I knew this, I put little effort in trying to even guess at the mystery, which takes a bit of the fun out of it. I was never going to be able to guess this one and I was just a little tired of the format of the multi-chapter reveal at the end of the book. I wish Rowling would give us a little more to go on. She always indicates when Strike has a revelation, but she almost never reveals it, leaving us in suspense until the very last minute. I would rather experience the discoveries with Strike in real time. It still leaves room for last minute reveals of motivation, but I’d prefer to get bits and pieces of the puzzle throughout rather that as a huge info dump at the end of the novel. It doesn’t work that well in a 650 page novel because that’s a lot of mystery to try and keep your reader engaged in without ever throwing us a bone.

So that’s my beef with this novel and Rowling’s writing style in general, but let’s talk about what I like about this book, because there was a lot that I liked too. Disclaimer, there are minor spoilers ahead about some of the characters, but nothing about the mystery element.

First of all, I adore Robin and Strike, as individuals and as partners. In previous novels, Strike has been the one slowly falling apart, pushing himself too hard, failing to take care of himself, making desperate decisions and poor romantic choices. He still pushes himself too hard and is as emotionally unavailable as ever, but I feel like he finally got some of his shit together. He acknowledges that he’s a bit of an asshole and that he treats his body like shit – he even takes a case for monetary reasons instead of moral ones, but he ultimately is still looking for the good in people and to set things right by exposing the truth. He also acknowledges some of his repressed feelings for Robin and I liked that he really looked out for her and her best interests.

In contrast, Robin is the one falling apart in this book and it’s about damn time. I like Strike, but Robin is definitely my favourite character. I love her passion and compassion. She’s intelligent and clever and I really felt this came across in this book. Strike gives her much more challenging assignments and I liked watching her pursue her own means of investigation. The conflict with Matthew finally comes to a head and good riddance, it’s about time. I love Robin’s anger in this book. Women are always taught to be amenable and nice no matter what the circumstances, but I loved watching Robin finally say enough is enough and finally get mad. Robin and Strike’s character development is really what makes this such as a great series. In my opinion, the mystery is only half of what matters, creating complex, flawed, but likeable characters is what makes a book great.

While I do have my complaints on the mystery structure, I love the amount of thought that Rowling puts into her plotlines. There are no throwaway comments. Every detail matters and you never know what minor comment may turn out to be a plot point of huge significance. Every character has a role to play and Rowling does a great job a crafting a complex cast of characters. This was a bit on the long side for a mystery novel, but I was pretty much on the edge of my seat for the entire second half of the book. I love that there’s just as much character drama as mystery. My only regret is that I read this way too fast and who knows how long it’s going to take for Rowling to give us another book. At least no cliffhanger this time!