Saturday 24 November 2018

#CBR10 Book 100: "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith

Page count: 550 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR10Bingo: Award Winner (LA Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller 2013 and an Anthony Award for Best Audio Book in 2014)

Supermodel Lula Landry topples from her third floor balcony and cracks her head open on the snow-covered pavement far below. Strangely, the paparazzi that were surrounding her apartment building earlier in the evening were nowhere to be seen when it happened. After careful investigation, the police rule the death a suicide, although the tabloids have all manner of conspiracy theories, the most popular being that she was murdered by her equally famous boyfriend. Lula's adopted brother disagrees with the police's verdict and is willing to pay a large amount of money to Cormoran Strike, a private detective and war veteran.

As Strike has recently broken up with his girlfriend of many years and is literally living in his office, knowing full well that he's about to have to declare bankruptcy, the case comes as a bit of a lifesaver. Nevertheless, he's not sure that his new client isn't delusional, and nobly tries to pass on the case to begin with. Lula's brother is adamant, and Strike is persuaded to look into the death, quickly discovering that there are things that the police seem to have missed and a lot of conflicting stories surrounding the event.

Along as an assistant, Strike has Robin Ellacott, as temporary secretary sent by an agency (because he forgot to tell them he couldn't afford anyone anymore) who turns out to be a lot more skilled and efficient that any of his previous ones. She's just got engaged to her long time boyfriend, who can't really see why Robin wants to keep working for Strike when she has a lot of other attractive job offers available. Robin seems to really enjoy her forays into investigating and gathering information, however, and while Strike is initially doubtful about even having her in the office (where they both pretend that it's not obvious that he's sleeping every night), he comes to really value her help.

I don't suppose it's much of a spoiler that Lula didn't, in fact, commit suicide. It wouldn't be a very good, or especially long, book if she did. PI checks if police's theory is correct. It is. The end. No one would bother reading that, no matter how famous the author was.

Because of course, as everyone knows by now, this is the first mystery novel that J.K "one of the richest people in the world" Rowling wrote, under a pseudonym. The book had been published, sold pretty well and received a fair amount of good reviews before the truth came out and the sales rocketed.

I'm one of these people who likes the Harry Potter books just fine, but they were not a transformative experience for me, and I don't love them as wholeheartedly and fiercely as a lot of my friends, both in real life and online. When ruthlessly culling my book collection when we moved, I got rid of all but the first three, because with book 4, the series starts getting needlessly bloated (book 5 is especially bad) and I just don't see myself wanting to reread them any time soon. When Gabriel is old enough, if he's interested in fantasy (which I hope to God he is, or we may have to leave him in the woods and try for another) we can always get copies at the library (or I can buy them second hand at a charity shop).

OK, my digression about HP over - I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. As Cannonball Bingo turned into a bit of a challenge for me to tackle some books that have been on my backlist for a long time, it seemed like the right time to finally read this one. I used to love mysteries  as a teenager and in my early twenties and read them all the time. As I got older and the world has gotten more depressing, I find myself unable to deal with blood, gore misery and horribleness (which sadly often features in mysteries nowadays) and I want my escapism with a guaranteed happy ending. With the exception of J.D. Robb's futuristic In Death books or the occasional Victorian lady solves crimes with some handsome and probably surly gentleman by her side (all of these have a strong romantic element), I don't really read mysteries anymore.

I liked my first taste of Cormoran and Robin enough that I am curious to keep going with this series. This book could just as easily have been a "Cannonballer Recommends" choice, there are certainly enough of Rowling/Galbraith's fans among the other Cannonballers. While it can take me a good long while, I usually eventually get round to anything so beloved by others on the group blog. I already own the second book in the series, but doubt I'll get round to reading it until sometime next year. Having grown up watching British set mystery series on telly with my Mum, I'm also curious about the TV adaptations now. Can't watch it until I'm caught up with the books, though, don't want to be spoiled.

Judging a book by its cover: Since this book has been out for a good long while now, it's had a number of covers over the years. My copy is the original British paperback, I'm pretty sure, with a fairly generic city at night cover. There's some fancy buildings, a cast iron fence in the foreground, a hunched man in an overcoat walking away from us (I'm assuming this is Cormoran Strike himself), with a fancy streetlight casting the whole thing in a golden and atmospheric glow. I much prefer this to the more recent "TV series" tie-in covers.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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