The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling) ★★★½
Series: Cormoran Strike (1 of 2)
Edition: Mulholland Books (2013), OverDrive Unabridged MP3, 15h54
Original publication date: 2013
Things aren’t going very well for Cormoran Strike. When we meet him, he’s just broken up with his long-time girlfriend and fiancée, who’s run out on him like a fury, and since they were living together and his private eye practice hasn’t been doing well, now he’s stuck sleeping in his office on a camp bed amid boxes of his belongings. On the same day, a saviour in the form of temporary secretary Robin Ellacott appears, along with a client who is willing to pay a high fee to solve a case. Famous supermodel Lula Landry plunged to her death from her luxury pad’s balcony a few months ago, and her brother John Bristow suspects this was not a suicide as the police determined, and wants Strike to find the killer. Strike himself has an interesting background. He’s a veteran from the war in Afghanistan where he lost his leg, and he is also the bastard son of a famous musician, his mother having been a well-known groupie back in the day. This is practical as far as getting people in high places (always impressed with his link to fame) to talk to him, but otherwise he is far from liking the too-close-for-comfort association with the world of tabloid press.
I liked the story well enough, and found Cormoran and his helpmate Robin to be appealing characters I had fun getting to know, but the tabloid elements felt too prevalent for me to feel I was sinking my teeth into a murder mystery of substance. There’s the world-famous gorgeouser-than-thou supermodel with bipolar disorder and a possible drug habit, there’s the loser heroin-addict famous musician boyfriend who likes to toy with the paparazzi, there’s the super-gay high fashion designer who alternates between adoring and exploiting his muse, there’s the lifestyle that is something akin to billionaire racing heiress Petra Ecclestone’s (a recent tabloid fixture in the UK), there’s the attractive wannabe-actor chauffeur who is chummy with the stars… it seems J. K. Rowling (writing under the pen name of Robert Galbraith) didn’t have to look much father than her supermarket’s checkout line to find inspiration for the first book in her Cormoran Strike series.
That being said, this was my first reaction as I was listening to the excellent narration by Robert Glenister of this audiobook a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d let the experience mellow and see what impressions I might be left with after a while, and I must admit that Galbraith/Rowling managed to create a very vivid little world few of us are usually privy to, yet seems familiar because of the media fascination with this élite world of people with too much money to have much common sense. Do I think this book will become a classic and be read in coming decades? Perhaps if readers are keen on getting a snapshot of what the second decade of the 21st century was like as far as popular culture goes. But for this very same reason, I’m now quite curious to see what Galbraith will do with his/her next book, where the mystery takes place in the just slightly less high-profile and less tabloid-centric world of a novelist gone missing, and a private detective whose next steps I’m keen to follow in the upcoming follow-up being released later this month, The Silkworm.
My rating system:
★ : Hated it! (May or may not have finished it)
★★ : It was just ok…
★★★ : Enjoyed it (Good)
★★★★ : Loved it! (Very good)
★★★★½ : Loved it—must read again! (Excellent)
★★★★★ : Brilliant!—will read again, and again… and again! (All-time favourite)