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Book Review: Robert Galbraith's The Running Grave

It's been more than a week since I've finished reading The Running Grave, the seventh book in Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series, but I still catch myself subconsciously preparing to continue reading what's already actually a case closed. J.K. Rowling (there's probably nobody left who doesn't know who the real writer is) has proved once again she's a queen of story-telling, even despite the hefty length of this newest volume.

In fact, her sixth book The Black Ink Heart was a bit of a struggle reading, as it increased twice if compared to her initial The Cuckoo’s Calling. Suddenly a supposed-to-be murder mystery turned Cormoran Strike into a more grumpier version of Harry Potter. But The Running Grave put all trivial at the first glance details on the proper shelves and invited the reader into a professionally designed home.

This time the readers are introduced to the life in the cult specifics, as Cormoran and Robin are asked by Sir Colin Edensor to help to extract his son from the clutches of the Universal Humanitarian Church (UHC), which declares freedom and happiness and invites the joined members to live on their farm in Norfolk. Will has dropped from the university to join UHC and has cut all the ties with his family thereof, even ignoring his mother's last wish to see her son before her death. And, of course, the substantial funds Will has inherited are also draining in favour of the UHC.

As the UHC has been armed with a circle of expensive lawyers and has shaken off previous accusations of any wrong-doing, Robin volunteers to join the church as a rich young woman who might be persuaded to make a big donation. She thinks it will be easy to investigate the case from the inside but it appears she's not ready for what awaits her on the farm. Constant starvation and humiliation combined with hard everyday labour - these are the things that Robin can cope with but how to escape a "spirit bonding", as they refer to a forced unprotected sex, which you cannot actually refuse?

Considering the previous will they/won't they suspense between Robin and Cormoran, which continues teasing every single reader (well, obviously, that's the plan), Cormoran is on pin and needles with Robin in Norfolk on her own. Though Robin's dating a policeman now, and Cormoran, as usual, makes a total airheaded decision to hook up with the wrong woman. Plus his ex-lover Charlotte intensifies her emotional torturing on him, which concludes in a fatal full stop. So brace yourselves with patience once again.

Though the objective is to extract Will from the cult, soon it becomes clear that in order to open the eyes of the believers and followers, Robin and Cormoran must completely discredit the church. And Robin finds a perfect option - the core of the UHC doctrine, the Drowned Prophet, who is actually Daiyu, a young daughter of the church leader who many years ago drowned in the North sea under suspicious circumstances but her body was never found. If they could prove what really happened to Daiyu, the mysticism and divinity around this fake figure would be shattered. But Robin has to really hurry up before the UHC crashes her for good.

The novel is stuffed with sublots to justify the agency's full-time schedule and to further develop Cormoran's family relationships. But if you could cross something off the pages, you probably wouldn't dare to even tipp-ex a line. It all comes so naturally together this time that what you get is a real pleasure of reading.


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