‘Career of Evil’ by Robert Galbraith
Okay, folks, I’m calling it: I’m done with Robert Galbraith.
In times of reading slumps, I often find myself turning to mysteries as a way to kick-start my reading habits. Mysteries usually quick and fun with just enough mental stimulation (whodunit?!) to make them feel worthwhile and slightly better than zoning in front of a movie.
In such times, I tend to veer towards Victorian-era mysteries of the Elizabeth Peters, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Anne Perry variety, but a couple of years ago I widened by net to include Robert Galbraith. Galbraith’s books are utterly unlike the kind of mysteries I usually enjoy: they’re contemporary, they have a surly male protagonist, and are often very violent.
So, why the exception? Because, improbably, Robert Galbraith is the pen name of J.K. Rowling. And I mean it when I say “improbably.” I can hardly think of something less probable than Robert Galbraith’s dark and violent books being written by the same person who invented Chocolate Frogs, Quidditch, and Diagon Alley.
And yet, they somehow are. So, I gave them a try. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe was so imaginative and tightly-plotted that I suspected her talents would be well-placed in the land of mystery novels, even if the subject matter was drastically different.
The Robert Galbraith books turned out to be even more different than I imagined. The sense of humor was gone. The darkness was palpable. Everything seemed painful and everyone in the books is perpetually exhausted, barely making it. The violence level dialed up and up with each successive book in the series until I quite honestly had a nightmare about a crazed maniac cutting off part of someone’s head and delivering it to me for no apparent reason. (Galbraith’s latest book, Career of Evil, involves someone lobbing off body parts and sending them to the protagonist to taunt him.)
And that’s about when I called it. Why was I putting myself through this agony when I could be reading pretty much any other book? I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters (even three books in, I was starting to get actively annoyed with some of them) and the imagination, humor, and spark of Rowling’s other books had yet to make an appearance (also three books in).
So I’m calling it. I’m going to retreat back to my Victorian-era mystery environs and invest my energies there. And, if I need a Rowling fix, I’ll just read some actual J.K. Rowling. Robert Galbraith, we’re through.