Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

I've always kind of meant to give Rowling's mysteries a try.  After all, I love mysteries, and I enjoyed Harry Potter just fine, and everybody seems to like the Galbraith series.  So I finally picked up a copy and read this, the first in a series about private detective Cormoran Strike.  I'm probably the last person on earth to get around to it!

Cormoran Strike's life is pretty much a garbage fire.  The private detective agency business he founded is on the brink of insolvency, he's just broken up with his fiance√© (for good this time, he's sure), and that makes him homeless so he has to sleep in his office.  The temp agency has sent over a new secretary, Robin, and he can't even afford that....and then John Bristow walks in and offers Strike a whole lot of money if he will investigate his sister's death.  Lula Landry was the biggest supermodel in the UK, and her fall from her apartment balcony was ruled a suicide, but Bristow is sure she was murdered.  Strike thinks Bristow is completely wrong, but he agrees to look at the case anyway, and while murder seems impossible, there are just a few tiny indications that it might not have been a suicide after all.

Strike follows Lula's elusive trail through paparazzi, the rich and famous, rehab and a homeless shelter.  There is a lot about designer clothes and other accessories (both good and bad) of life as a supermodel.  It helps to be interested in clothes, though there is some humor as Strike finds it all hideously ugly.

I did enjoy this mystery pretty well, but I also felt it was too long.  The story could usefully have been condensed by a good hundred pages.  450 pages is quite long for a mystery, and I did feel that this one lagged.  I was frustrated with how long everything took, and while I'm interested in what happens to Strike and Robin, I'm not sure I want to invest so much time in them.  In fact, I just looked at the other three books in the series, and each is longer than the last.  The fourth is over 600 pages (!!).  I felt that Rowling needed a stern editor in the last couple of Harry Potter books, and I think that applies here too!

To be fair, this isn't really a traditional "mystery" as usually defined in the genre.  Strictly speaking, a mystery is supposed to play fair by the reader, giving enough clues to solve the puzzle and not letting the detective have a bunch of secret information that's crucial to the case.  Strike knows several things the reader does not, and I don't think it would really be possible to figure out the puzzle.  So this is more like a novel that's a thriller or a character study of a detective, not quite a mystery in the usual sense.  (This isn't something I worry about for myself; I enjoy going with the flow of the story and not worrying about solving the puzzle before the end.  I just thought it was worth noting.)

It was fine, but I didn't think it was great.


3 comments:

Tina said...

I was slow to get to these mysteries too but I did like the characters. Nice review. And yeah, his life is like a garbage fire!

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

I've really gotten into this series, but they ARE long (though this was my least favorite). I'm not ever really sure why I enjoy them so much, but I think it's for the characters of Strike and Robin. I've enjoyed following their personal stories through the series, but if you're looking for a more traditional mystery-driven, fast-paced read, I can see that these books wouldn't be quite the right thing.

Joy Weese Moll said...

I got addicted to this series -- but I agree with your assessment. I never got around to reviewing the books, partially because there just isn't enough depth to write about.