Sunday, May 11, 2014

Who Done It

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith, is the story of Cormoran Strike, a private investigator who is down on his luck.  At the beginning of the novel, Strike has serious money troubles, and has just been dumped by his girlfriend.  He also can't keep a secretary, and has hired a temp, Robin, to help him out.  Unknown to Strike, Robin has always wanted to be a detective.  On her first day at the office, the older brother of one of Strike's childhood friends hires Strike to investigate the murder of his sister, a famous supermodel named Lula Landry, who is thought to have committed suicide. 

Galbraith works overtime to make Strike a multi-dimensional character.  He is said to be over six feet tall, stocky, and very hairy.  He is also the illegitimate son of a famous rock star.  Did I mention that he lost a leg while he was serving in the military in Afghanistan?  The reader learns all of this very early on, and at first it felt like it was just too much.  As the story continues, his size is frequently mentioned, and his parentage opens doors, making celebrity witnesses more willing to talk with him.  The interesting question is why Galbraith makes him an amputee.  Having served in the military gives Strike credibility with the police, but he didn't have to lose a limb to be credible.  While the missing leg is mentioned a lot in the story, it is never an excuse, and is never something Strike uses for sympathy.  Galbraith seems to be celebrating the abilities of injured veterans more than anything else.

Lula was almost as multi-dimensional as Strike, being a mixed race celebrity who was adopted by a wealthy white family, and who struggled with mental illness and drug use while trying to find her birth family.  This gives Strike a lot of leads to follow, and the reader lots of conclusions to jump to.  There is one reason why I don't read many mysteries or detective novels: the ending.   If I can figure out who did it, I'm disappointed that the author wasn't smart enough to surprise me. If I can't figure it out, I'm irritated that the author left out an important clue or grasped for unreasonable conclusions. Such was the case with Cuckoo, but I have to say that even with the last minute twists, I enjoyed the ride.

As you likely know, Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling.  She published The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym, but the secret didn't keep.  Although the novel hadn't sold so well as Galbraith's, once it was known to have been written by Rowling, it became a best seller.   Rowling mixed in a twist from her own life with Lula being concerned about the press tapping her phone.  This added to the contemporary and real feel of the story, and helped Rowling to add a few red herrings.  By the end of the book, the professional relationship between Strike and Robin is developing, with each of them being impressed by the other's abilities.  The novel ends leaving the reader wanting to know what will happen next between them.  I think we'll find out in the second Cormoran Strike novel, The Silkworm which will be available next month. 

I read this book for The Typical Book Group, and we will be getting together to discuss it soon.  In terms of Challenges, this is one more down for the Audiobook Challenge and the I Love Library Books Challenge.  The Cuckoo's Calling was read by Robert Glenister, who is a British actor.  Glenister was a great reader, and I can't imagine Strike's voice any other way.

Next up on CD:  The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

Still Reading:  The Titans by John Jakes

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