Modern Detour

Review of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a contemporary crime fiction novel written by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Therefore, it is counts toward my Modern Detour challenge.

What was it about?

In less than a day, Robin Ellacott got engaged and started her new job as temporary secretary for Cormoran Strike. The son of the musician Jonny Rokeby, an injured war veteran, and now private detective, Cormoran Strike has a complicated past. To make matters worse, his longtime girlfriend Charlotte just dumped him. Because debtors are calling and because of his breakup, he cannot afford an apartment or a secretary. Temporary Solutions has sent him a secretary for a few months, but Strike now lives in his office. By all standards, Strike is living a pathetic existence.

Strike’s detective skills are put to the test when a lawyer named John Bristow walks into his office one day asking for justice for the murder of his adopted sister and the famous supermodel Lula Landry. Lula’s death happened three months earlier and had been ruled a suicide, but John is convinced that Lula did not throw herself out of that flat window. She was pushed out. He shows Strike a CCTV footage of the crime scene. Bristow thinks the murderer is a man who is seen running away from the crime scene. He wants Strike to find this runner. Bristow believes that the police ignored the possibility of Lula’s death being a murder because she was a troubled woman. Cormoran Strike, with the help of Robin, find and interview all the people who knew Lula in her last days. As the investigation proceeds, Strike becomes increasingly convinced that Lula never committed suicide but was killed by someone who thought to gain something from her death.

What did I think of it? 

It is so hard to review a crime fiction novel, so I apologize in advance if my reactions to the books sound vague. Suffice it to say that I didn’t really enjoy most of The Cuckoo’s Calling. The last 1/4 of the book was interesting, but the other 3/4 was not. While the conclusion is not very original, Rowling/Galbraith does a good job tying up the loose ends of the case. However, I never cared about any of the characters except maybe Robin, Cormoran Strike’s secretary. The plot was plodding and the writing, clumsy. I had such difficulty reading this book because I kept tripping over the author’s poorly constructed sentences. At times, I also found the profanity unbearable.

The author clearly wanted the reader to sympathize with her characters, but because I knew what she wanted me to feel, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them. The narrator came across as preachy. There was too much emphasis placed on the private eye’s unfortunate upbringing and on the plight of the rich and famous. In short, I didn’t like how Rowling threaded a social commentary into her crime fiction novel. At times, I felt that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written as a continuation of The Casual Vacancy. The themes in both works are very similar: People are sometimes the product of their environment, and the media is largely responsible for the many problems plaguing our society.

Rowling loves writing long books, but 450 pages is absurdly long for a book of this genre. The case is neatly resolved at the end, but the reader must wade through hundreds of pages before getting there. It’s not worth the effort. I don’t plan on reading any other books in this series.

(BTW, I have no clue why the girl on the cover is white. Lula Landry is supposed to be black).

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