I know, JK Rowling is a somewhat troubling figure now. When this book came out, last year, my daughter was adamant that we not buy it, because of Rowling’s anti-trans statements, and I had respected her feelings up till now; as well as having my own concerns. But… the art, not the artist, I guess? Even if I’m further enriching her by buying the art?

The truth is twofold: one, I don’t think she’s actively antithetical to trans people. She has a complex, nuanced position about various aspects of the situation, which gets blown out of all proportion on Twitter, when nuance, as it does, heads over there to die. And which, surprisingly and disappointingly for a wordsmith, she doesn’t seem able to elucidate that well.

And two, I really like the books and wanted to read it.

Furthermore, I was sick, and I had decided that I was going to treat the time on the sofa as an extension of the holiday, and not try to get back to working on the novel/dissertation till the Monday. I wanted some comfort reading, and this was what I wanted. I knew I’d rip through it in a few days, even if I was trying to work at the time. So I killed two birds with one stone.

It’s good, as ever. I don’t really understand how she makes the pages turn so fast (there are a lot of them, especially as an ebook). I did pick up a couple of typos, and some odd line break errors, which might be to do with the translation to ebook – either way, it’s very sloppy editing/proofreading by the publishers. Also some – several – places where I would have edited a line to make it better. I noticed fewer of those as the plot roared on, unsurprisingly. Which at least means I’m reading even a book like this in a more writerly fashion. Or I was at the start.

The main other weaknesses are:

  • Everything comes together just a bit too tidily.
  • There’s too much about some of the secondary cases the agency is working on, over and above the main one. Those can be interesting or amusing, and sure, it’s realistic that they’d have to have more than just a forty-year-old cold case to work on, over a year. But in the end they feel like padding.
  • As the denouement unfolds she uses a gimmick where the characters learn or work out something, which they relate to each other, but which is not revealed to us. It’s kind of annoying, because it’s suddenly hiding info from the reader that the characters have, where earlier in the story that wasn’t happening. I think she’s done it before in some (maybe all) of the Strike novels.

But a lot of fun, anyway.