The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Utterly brilliant, like a diamond. Hard enough to cut glass and with enough laser-sharp brilliance to make you need to squint.

It's a novel of relationships. Lovers, spouses, friends, abusers, employees, neighbors - it's all in there. And all the dark and twisty bits of relationships are in there, too. The love and anger and disappointment and hatred and lust.

Rowling writes well about relationships. And about good and evil. And about trying to do what seems best, even if that thing is bad or dangerous or heart-breaking. We know that from *ahem* other books she's written. But this is an entirely different kettle of fish. Perhaps even an entirely different pond.

Do not go into reading this book thinking that you love J.K. Rowling, or that you loved those other books she wrote. Although some of the themes are similar, it might as well have been written by someone entirely different. And that, to me, is part of the brilliance. She's such an adept writer that it's very easy to forget that she is the author we thought we knew.

The book is dark. Dark, dark, dark. And at its core, in the place where it is darkest and hardest, it shines with a brilliance that's almost hard to bear.