The Comoran Strike Novels by Robert Galbraith

A number of years ago my office location allowed me travel to and from work by ferry. The commute was sublime. I challenge anyone to catch this barging bateau and arrive to work anything but composed, calm and collected. It’s impossible. A seat was always available and the journey unencumbered by commuter traffic was the perfect distance to complete a chapter of a book.

It was against this backdrop that I read my first Robert Galbraith; the artist formerly known as JK Rowling. I adore JK Rowling. Her Harry Potter episodic novels have brought me hours of blissful entertainment. I have read them many times and channel my inner Hermione in my current postgraduate studies. Rowling’s foray into adult fiction has been equally and unequivocally enjoyable. The Casual Vacancy didn’t disappoint and exposed Rowling’s enormous commitment to social justice.

Rowling’s proclivity to social justice is creatively continued as Galbraith in her Comoran Strike narrative.  Her motley crew of magnificent misfits and miscreants are artfully pitted against the rich and powerful, but not in a cliché or banal way. The narrative in these tales reminds me a little of the ferry commute itself; a syncopated rocking of relaxation to the edge of discomfort.

If you are looking for light, entertaining reads with a pinch of social justice, pick up a Robert Galbraith. Ferry commute optional (but highly recommended).

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

I have taken a lover. I have never met anyone like him. He is a breath of fresh air.

His name is Dyson. I think I’m in love.

I don’t know what specifically or technically defines a heat wave. If it is the suffocating and choking heat that has gripped Sydney for the last two months to the point of asphyxiation, then that’s sound enough a definition for me. There is nothing like the unrelenting pain of unstoppable heat; the type of excessive warmth that makes you sweat lying down and you never feel clean. It’s weary. It’s depressive. It ain’t for me. #teamAutumn

In this novel, heat and temperature are more than just backdrop. The very plot and narrative of The Dry could not exist without such an impenetrable protagonist. Set in rural Australia, the rising mercury coincides with rising madness to the point of folly and psychosis. The heat is brutal and unrelenting to the point, as reader, I never felt truly comfortable.

I am not generally a fan of crime fiction as can be evidenced here (pun intended). But The Dry is good. It’s very good.

But if, like me, a novel can completely overpower you, I suggest you wait until the temperature drops and the leaves begin to fall lest you are overpowered by its roasting gaze.

If you cannot wait, get a lover. Get a lover like Dyson.

The Whites by Richard Price (writing as Harry Brandt)

In the criminal justice system, sexually based offences are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit. These are their stories.

For those of you living under a rock (ok, maybe a bit harsh), the above is the narrated preamble to each episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. SVU is a procedural crime show currently in its seventeenth season which means I have been watching it a loooong time. It’s pretty gritty and explicit at times but can also be incredibly thought provoking and entertaining. It also helped me earn a high distinction in my undergrad (The Sociology of Media: how gender and computer games are reported in the media). And, you know, my couch law degree.

I have a funny relationship with crime drama. I won’t miss an episode of SVU and yet, I cannot sit through more than ten minutes of CSI (obviously there is a high diversity of names in the crime drama genre allowing only acronyms to grace our silver screens). I could call my viewership discerning, but really I am just fickle and difficult to entertain. So when The Whites came highly recommended to me, I was intrigued. I can enjoy the genre and needed something a little lighter after the brilliant intensity of A Little Life.

I’m torn.

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the tone and pace of this novel, despite the excellent writing and intriguing plot. Perhaps there was a little too much macho posturing; a genre where the men are either law makers or law breakers and the women are supporting acts to villain or victim. Arguably, this gender dichotomy is simply reflexive of the sphere in which is represents. I don’t know. The closest I get to the edge of the criminal world is my Saturday morning spin class where one of my fellow spinners is a female detective (and can I just say how totally and utterly cool I think it is to know an actual real-life detective).

I didn’t not enjoy this tale and I know so many who really loved or will love it. But for now, I might stick with SVU. If nothing else because I’m kinda obsessed with the incomparable Detective/ Sergeant/ Lieutenant Olivia Benson.