Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (4/5). Like Princess Diana’s death, if she was a model in 2010.

24 Apr

I waited five months for this audiobook and I think ‘devoured’ is the proper adjective to describe how quickly I got through it. I’ll admit that I wanted to read this book only once finding out that Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J.K. Rowling. I was semi-impressed by The Casual Vacancy and wanted to see if Rowling could do something else better. I think she succeeded.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is not what one thinks of when the word ‘hero’ is mentioned. Strangely tall, missing a leg and none-too attractive, Cormoran is down on his luck in a floundering private investigation business. To top it all off, he’s just broken up with his long-term girlfriend the same morning that John Bristow walks into his office. John wants Cormoran to re-investigate the death of his sister, super model Lula Landry, whose passing has been ruled a suicide. Thinking he’ll find nothing, Cormoran starts interviewing witnesses and friends and soon finds out that there was a lot more happening in the life of this rich and famous model that anyone originally though. It’s not only Lula’s secrets that Cormoran will uncover by the end of the book but those of most of London’s elite.

Having read all of Harry Potter and also The Casual Vacancy, I wasn’t sure what I should anticipate from this book. I knew it was about a PI, but I guess I didn’t expect it to be a mystery novel. I realized as I typed that how stupid it sounds. I guess you could say I went into this with an open mind. That seems fair.

One criticism I have for Rowling is that she has too many characters. For a seven book series, you can have hundred of characters, but for a stand-alone book like The Casual Vacancy or a book where (one assumes) the characters won’t re-appear in later installments, she tends to create too many. That being said, I love the characters she does create. She created characters that broke their own stereotypes. Ciara Porter is going to read Literature at Oxford, Lady Bristow is smotheringly affectionate, and Lula herself  seems to have a stronger moral compass than any of the characters put together. At the same time, some characters are exactly who you think they are, such as Allison and Cyprian. Rowling has a natural talent for creating characters.

Robin was by far my favorite character. I loved her fight between doing what she enjoyed and what she should. Even though her fiance Matthew tries to get her to take an HR position, she wants to stay with Strike so badly that she avoids telling him about the other position and has to defend her boss to her new fiance on a nightly basis. The decision between exciting detecting work and a better paying repetitive desk job haunts Robin’s time in the novel. I loved this because it mirrors how I feel about writing and books. I work to live. For me, life is about writing and throwing myself int a book and less about [insert what I do for a living here]. I’m jealous that Robin could do something she enjoyed for a living.

My other favorite character was Strike. I loved how he was an unlikely hero with so many layers. His time in the army affected him and in his investigations the father he’d never known defined him. I look forward to more books with Cormoran because I’d love to see where Galbraith goes with him.

I loved the part when Cormoran goes to a club with Ciara to meet Evan. I thought the way Ciara acted was a perfect stereotype of a dumb blonde model and it had me laughing the whole time. I could picture Duffield so perfectly in my head that I knew he was drawing his knees to his chest before it was in the narration. Strike was so out-of-place in the scene that it was overly comical and yet highly emotional, two feelings that played well of each other in Rowling’s appraising eye (can you tell yet I don’t know if I should refer to the author as Rowling or Galbraith?).

The one thing I didn’t like about the book (and I suspect this is personal preference) is that there weren’t many clues that Cormoran was figuring out the mystery until he finally reveals his findings to John in the book’s climactic scene. I would have liked to see Coromoran’s suspicions connecting along the way and the pieces falling into place. I suspected Tony Landry for a lot of the book but I couldn’t figure what about him I found fishy until Cormoran laid it all out. I think solving it a little at a time instead of all at once would have been better for me.

This book seemed a little like Princess Diana’s death to me because of the focus on media influence. Lula’s life was in turmoil because her privacy was constantly invaded by the media; her phone was tapped, they waited outside her flat, her relationship with Evan was public knowledge, and a picture of her dead on the street was front page news. I wonder if Rowling wanted to comment on this because of her new-found fame after the Potter success. I hope that there aren’t paparazzi lurking around her house and taking pictures of her kids after school. I’d feel really bad if they did.

Writer’s Takeaways: I think the one lesson I learned was even if a character is only appearing briefly, that’s no reason not to develop him or her. Rowling develops all of her characters so well when introduced and it’s a really admirable strength. However, if you can’t develop a character, maybe he or she isn’t needed. There is such thing as too many characters.

A really fun read. I greatly enjoyed it. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

Related Posts:
Review | Cormoran Strike: #1 The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling) | The Skeptical Reader
Book Review Wednesdays: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) | so writes rachael
Stephanie on Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith | Russell Books

 

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7 Responses to “Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (4/5). Like Princess Diana’s death, if she was a model in 2010.”

  1. hotteaandagoodbook April 25, 2014 at 12:10 AM #

    This one had been on my tbr list for a while but I’ve been hesitant. I didn’t care for The Casual Vacancy so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.

    Like

    • Sam April 25, 2014 at 6:02 AM #

      I wasn’t a fan of The Casual Vacancy either but I enjoyed this one. Give it a try. It might surprise you.

      Like

  2. Nadia @ Nadia Reads April 25, 2014 at 7:23 AM #

    I’m really not sure if I want to read this. I want to just because it’s by Rowling, but I don’t want to because I don’t really feel that the story would be sth I’d enjoy. I’m leaning more towards not reading it, though.

    Like

    • Sam April 25, 2014 at 7:27 AM #

      If you’re not into mysteries then avoid it. If you think it sounds interesting at all, I’d encourage you to try it. The characters are really well developed. It might spice up your variety! 😉

      Like

  3. Alastair Savage October 16, 2015 at 6:36 AM #

    I also love the way she can create a three-dimensional character so quickly. This was my first Rowling book and I loved it (I was a bit old for the whole Harry Potter thing).
    Strike is unusual in being a one-legged hero, in that many of the great characters of British fiction with one leg tend to be villains, as I >>ahem<< mentioned in a post a few years back: https://alastairsavage.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/the-one-legged-man-in-victorian-fiction/

    Like

    • Sam October 16, 2015 at 7:31 AM #

      I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book with a one legged character before. I never would have thought of that as a villainous characteristic. I like that he’s a hero as a veteran. I’m used to seeing heroes in active combat so reaching beyond duty is refreshing to me. Happy reading!

      Like

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