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The Cuckoo’s Calling

Oct 9, 2013
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This extremely likable debut detective novel by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) features an up-to-the-minute rant on celebrity, a standard-issue schlubby-but-brilliant detective-with-a-past with a twist, his winsome gal Friday, and a cast of well-drawn, semi-unsavory people as suspects/bad actors. The sympathetic characters get even better treatment, and everyone’s lives are satisfyingly messy, detailed, and believable.

London takes center stage, but strangely, its notoriously rabid media, except for phone tapping and ever-present paparazzi, is largely absent from this tale of the death of a supermodel. Perhaps Rowling, stung once or twice by the press herself, did not want to invite any further approbation, but it’s a missed opportunity for a few more red herrings, tipsters and/or shady characters. The inner workings of luxe apartments and fashion ateliers are nicely counterbalanced by the down-to-earth existences of ordinary Londoners like detective Cormoran Strike and his secretary/assistant Robin.

It’s an enjoyable romp through a not-so-gripping mystery; a few plot twists come as zero surprise but others give the reader a little jolt. I would say she’s probably got six more up her sleeve. I’d read the next one, though if the pacing or complication doesn’t pick up (or Cormoran’s love life doesn’t get even more complicated) I’m not sure if I’m with her the whole way.

On a sliding scale of British mysteries, with Kate Atkinson being a 10, Tana French a 9, Elizabeth George a 6 and Agatha Christie being a 1, I’d give this maiden voyage a 5.

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“Shakespeare every day for a year: Starting April 23, 2013, I am going to read, listen to or watch Shakespeare, posting and Tweeting daily.”

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