Friday, November 22, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith


Spoiler-free summary: 
Lula Landry, the beautiful and troubled supermodel, has died. While most of the world has accepted the fall from her balcony as suicide, her adoptive brother, John Bristow has some questions. He hires down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike to investigate her death. Expecting it to be just another dead-end case, a result of a shocked and denial-laden family, Strike and his temporary secretary Robin are quickly pulled into Lula’s glamorous, but moody, world to find that perhaps there is indeed more to Lula’s tragic story.

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I don’t think I would have ever picked up this book if it hadn’t come out that Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling in disguise. I didn’t think I cared for detective or crime novels, but I enjoyed this book. I don’t think it was enough to convert me to mysteries, but, it was a nice, fun read. It wasn’t really a thinker and there was not much edge-of-my-seat action, but it was pleasant enough.

The writing felt very distinctly Rowling to me. I keep telling myself that I would definitely have drawn the comparison between Galbraith and Rowling if it hadn’t surfaced that they are one and the same, but, I wouldn’t have ever read it otherwise, so who knows. The names of the characters especially felt whimsical and Rowling-esque to me. Cormoran Strike, Lula Landry – these names would not seem out of place in the Wizarding World.

I enjoyed this much more than I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s only other non-Harry Potter work. They felt very similar, however. As with The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling explored the themes of wealth vs. poverty. I find it interesting that Rowling continually returns to these ideas: Harry gained and lost wealth and fame over and over, in different forms, The Casual Vacancy centered around less-than-glamorous characters, and this novel was about the price of fame. It’s very interesting. I’d like to make some grand, sweeping conclusion about Rowling and her discontent with the life she’s living, but, I have a headache and don’t care enough, I guess.

I have read some reviews online in which people mention that perhaps this book is a little long; I’d have to agree with that sentiment. The first half of the novel drags a bit and spends more time describing the relationship between Strike and his temporary solution, Robin. But, the end picks up considerably. However, all of this relationship-building between Strike and Robin felt odd to me, given the way this novel ends. I was expecting a bit more to come out of their bond, if you know what I mean. We are repeatedly beat over the head with the idea that Robin is unhappy with her engagement, but nothing significant comes from it. Is this a setup for a sequel, or did someone tell Rowling that not every story is a love story and the plot was tweaked, but not enough? So, as you can see, I was torn between thinking: “this book is too long” and “there’s not enough here,” which is an interesting place to be.   

There were some interesting digs at the national debt and politics in general buried in this book, which I found kind of out of place. I couldn’t figure out if they were from Rowling’s point of view or Strike’s. Also, there was one odd sentence mentioning a cat’s anus that really just threw me.  

Overall, I found the plot kind of shocking for the sake of being shocking, but the writing was fun and I enjoyed meeting the characters.  

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