There are days where I feel like I am drowning beneath a tremendous pile of exciting books. Do you ever have those days? I did on the day my library emailed me to say my hold had come in on The Cuckoo’s Calling. (Advantage, incidentally, Louisiana. I would have been like the 150th person on the hold list for the New York ebook copies. My home library got me a copy within twenty-four hours. I’m just saying.) The Cuckoo’s Calling came in, I started reading Patrick Ness’s forthcoming book More than This, and I got approved for three AMAZING (-sounding) nonfiction books on NetGalley, and I have this epistolary novel my mother gave me that I’ve been saving as a treat, and I finally got a copy of the last Eva Ibbotson romance I haven’t read yet. Phew.
Well, anyway. Here is JK Rowling’s stealthy new book (Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) that she wrote under a pseudonym like the Stealthiest Stealthmaster in all of Stealthland. Except not really, I guess, because one of her lawyers sang like a canary (jerk), and now her publisher can finally tell everyone that it’s publishing JK Rowling’s new book.
The beginning: When supermodel Lula Landry falls from a balcony to her death, her adoptive brother is desperate to prove it wasn’t a suicide. He hires military-man-turned-PI Cormoran Strike, along with Strike’s temporary secretary Robin, to find out the truth. Investigating ensues.
The end (highlight blank spaces for spoilers): I felt very lawless reading the end of this one! I never read the ends of the Harry Potter books — well, almost never. I read the end of Philosopher’s Stone, and I did peek at the end of Half-Blood Prince to check whether Ginny was going to be okay. And I went forward a few pages sometimes in Deathly Hallows to check when Ron was coming back and whether Hagrid was all right. But never apart from that! It felt like a smidge like I was betraying some long-held principles, but per usual I read the end because I was tired of not knowing what the endgame was going to be.
So the answer is that the brother did it, and hired Strike in the hopes that he would pin the murder on someone else, which doesn’t seem like the greatest strategy, but never mind. I am not the boss of murderers.
The resolution to the mystery — does not completely resolve my frustration. I am enjoying this much much much more than I did Casual Vacancy, and at the same time I feel like it’s taking an unconscionably long time to set everything up. Actually, though, that’s JK Rowling, isn’t it? Now that I’m thinking about it? Philosopher’s Stone takes for damn ever to put the mystery in motion (which is why I read the end), and there really is a longish period in her other books in which clues for that book’s mysteries don’t get dropped much at all. You don’t notice so much because the world-building is so stellar, and also because there is Neville to fuss over.
Interesting. I learned something today.
The whole: I have been on record about my general impatience with world-weary divorced private eyes. Apart from Veronica Mars, noir is very much not my thing, and it’s hard to have a private eye in a shabby old office without its feeling noirish. But by the end of the book, I was rather attached to Strike. I liked it that he was impressed with Robin — the way to my heart, as always, is for a character to admire another character. Particularly, I was pleased that when he got drunk and was out with Robin, he didn’t say anything creepy but was just like, “You’re nice.” (Drunkenly.) Hooray!
To the rest, once the mystery kicked into high gear (which took A WHILE), it was a lot of fun. Galbraith #coughRowlingcough# has fun with a long-form late-in-book misdirect about the identity of the killer. I love a long-form JK Rowling misdirect. See also my ongoing correctness in re: Snape. The final confrontation scene in The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent scene of its type, if you don’t object to the sort of “Then you X and when Y happened you Z” type of scene at the end of a mystery novel. I personally do not. I like them, although not as much as I like “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here today” scenes. Those are the best.
As JK Rowling shows to best advantage when developing characters over a period of time, I’m excited for the second and subsequent books in this series. I’m hoping that Strike’s world can develop more as the books continue. I would like to see more of Robin’s life aside from wanting to be a plucky girl detective (although it is awesome to be a plucky girl detective!), and I’d like to learn more about Strike’s friends-and-relations and how they engage with his life.
In short, despite some hiccups as the plot gets going, I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’m excited to see how the series develops.
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