Friday, August 16, 2013

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

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I thought The Casual Vacancy was brilliant, so of course I got right in line for a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling when the news broke that it was written by J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith).

I would never have thought this was written by Rowling if I hadn’t already known. There was more adult language than I’m used to, but I guess that’s to be expected in a novel about a hard-boiled detective. There is not a lot of action, so I do understand reviewers who’ve said they thought it might have been written by a woman even before the news broke. This is a mystery for a thinking reader, not someone who likes nonstop action. I doubt many James Bond fans will be drawn to The Cuckoo’s Calling.
As always, Rowling’s strength is her character development. After 455 pages I really felt I’d gotten to know Private Investigator Cormoran Strike and his “temporary” secretary Robin Ellacott. I had strong images of what they looked like in my mind and insight into their personalities. Their relationship did not unfold in a predictable way. There are many wholly unlikeable characters in this book, but, like Shakespeare, Rowling manages to give even minor characters depth and interesting qualities.
The Cuckoo’s Calling has a pretty straightforward plot. I did not figure out the mystery – although I suspected the murderer at times, I wasn’t sure – but then I rarely figure out “who done it.” I don’t really try, so if I guess the murderer early on in a book I know the mystery was lame. Rowling does throw in some red herrings to lead her readers astray. She spends a lot of time describing things, places, and events, which will drive some readers crazy but which I enjoyed.
I don’t come across words I don’t know the meaning of all that often in pleasure reading, but Rowling caught me several times. (For example: “Exophthalmic” – having or characterized by protruding eyes.)
I thoroughly enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling and look forward to the next book in the series. If you like great character development and a meandering investigation, you may enjoy this book. If you like minimal character development and lots of action, it is probably not for you.

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