Thursday, October 10, 2013

Readings: The Cuckoo's Calling

JK Rowling has a nice problem. She is so famous, she decided to change her name and write another book, completely different from the series that made her one of the richest people in the world. Well, then. How is this other book? I read her The Cuckoo's Calling (written by Robert Galbraith) recently and was quite pleased.

The main character, one Cormoran Strike, is an unlikely private eye whose life is falling apart. He somehow gets himself a brilliant secretary called Robin just as he also gets his first real client in ages: a rich man who comes to Strike to solve what he is convinced is the murder of his super-model sister, Lula Landry. From here on, the book goes about taking you on Strike's methodical, dogged path as a diligent detective: lots of note-taking, attention-paying, and legwork.

The characters are all well drawn out. There is a fair sprinkling of London's super-rich as well as its unfortunates. Strike's own history is interesting and unusual: he actually straddles both these categories by virtue of his birth and current life. The dialog is engaging and convincing. And the conclusion of the book is satisfying, even if I didn't figure anything out at all and chose to go along on the ride with the rather likable Strike and the heaven-sent Robin. 

As to the big question: What does this story have in common with the Harry Potter series?

On the surface, nothing. Still, I was being difficult and delved into the question once I'd read Cuckoo. To begin with, childhood abandonment and/or a difficult childhood is common to both main characters. Sibling relationships are well etched. Then the sense of place is marvelous: present-day London is as well represented as the fantastical Hogwarts. And that's as far as I got. While this was a pointless exercise, it  made me somehow appreciate Rowling a little more even, not that I needed a reason to.

Verdict? Cormoran Strike has made an impact with his solidity and vulnerability, and his interesting relationship with Robin doesn't hurt. (The pace may seem a tad slow to some, but since I had no expectations it did not bother me.)

Rowling has put her foot in it by creating this character and practically ensuring that the baying crowds will be hollering for a sequel while the ink dries on this one. I am happy to join those ranks, and shall wait until Rowling obliges. Ha.

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