My Month of Crime Fiction: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith Cuckoo's Calling (2013) by Robert Galbraith

(So, just making sure that everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is actually J. K. Rowling. Ok, that's done, moving on.)

I'm admitting here and now that I've only read the first Harry Potter book (many many years ago), but I remember admiring Rowling's clear, descriptive writing. Therefore, I was pretty excited about diving in to The Cuckoo's Calling, especially since Rowling has written a second crime novel featuring Detective Cormoran Strike (out this June).

And yet (sigh). I wasn't too impressed with this book, the last of my "Month of Crime Fiction" novels. I mean, the story was mildly interesting, and the twist at the end was pretty good (though not outrageously awesome), but it just left me feeling...meh. It was like a beautiful, tasty-looking layered cake that was actually just a cardboard shell.
But like I said, the story was interesting enough to make you care at least a little bit about what happened to the main characters. Strike, an Afghan War vet and private eye, is hired to investigate the death of a supermodel with a complicated past and dysfunctional family. The police claim that Lula (also called the "Cuckoo") had committed suicide by jumping off of her balcony, but Lula's brother believes otherwise, and thus Strike launches himself into the world of paparazzi, druggies, actors, models, and expensive lawyers to find out what really happened. His temporary secretary and loyal sidekick is actually named "Robin" (I know), and together Strike and the secretary track down witnesses and do a lot of "googling" to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

Throughout, Strike is hampered by his painful prosthesis (he lost part of his leg in an attack in Afghanistan). The prosthesis looms so large in the story that it begs us to read it as a tangible symbol of the novel's strained familial relations. Strike and Lula both come from splintered families: Strike is the illegitimate (and ignored) son of a rock star (who had many children with many different women); while Lula, the daughter of a black man and white woman, was adopted into a white family that has its own internal squabbles over money and past grievances. Lula's own search for her birth-parents leads her down the road that culminates in her death.

There's definitely a lot of potential in the Strike character, but we might have cared about him more if the novel had been written in the first-person (?). Who knows. I will be reading The Silkworm, though, and hopefully that will be more of a page-turner.

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