Thursday, May 14, 2015
In which the mystery book group meets Cormoran Strike in The Cuckoo's Calling....
Our book for discussion this month was The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - who is also known as J.K. Rowling. I chose to listen to it on audio and the narrator was Robert Glenister. I don't think I have heard this narrator before, but he did a good job. My personal reaction to the book was positive. Not the best book ever, but certainly an absorbing mystery. And I felt that though the pace was a bit slow and there were lots of characters, as a first book in a series, some leeway should be given for getting the reader clued in. The group as a whole was mostly positive, although we did have a few who expressed dislike or 'meh' opinions. As discussion progressed, more people shared some annoyances.
Let's talk about the plot a bit. This book is the first in the Cormoran Strike series. Cormoran Strike is a private detective, formerly a military police investigator. He has seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan and indeed lost a leg in a fire fight. He's come home and recovered physically, but he still struggles with memories. A private detective, yes - a successful one - well, not so much. As the story begins, he has only one client. The other main protagonist is Robin, initially a temporary administrative assistant to Strike. She shows up one morning for her assignment and finds that not only was Strike not expecting her (he forgot to cancel the temp agency contract), he is living in his office due to a recent breakup with his fiance. Robin, who has secretly wanted to be a private eye since her girlhood, performs admirably when a new client arrives and Strike requires secretary stuff.
John Bristow, whose younger brother Strike knew as a kid, wants to hire him to investigate the death of his sister, Lulu Landry. Lulu was a very famous fashion model, who supposedly jumped to her death from her penthouse apartment. Bristow says he doesn't believe it was suicide, but no one else agrees. He wants Strike to find out the 'real' truth.
The group dove in with opinions about the plot, the relationship between Strike and Robin (very positive on that score), the pacing, the number of characters, J.K. Rowling's writing style in this book compared to her Harry Potter books, the ending, the clues throughout, Strike as a character, Robin as a character, the murderer (yes, it was murder), and other tangential issues. Whew! Conversation was brisk! Many felt the book could have been shorter. Some felt that it seemed like it was written for a TV episode (and there will be TV adaptation). Many felt the give and take relationship between Strike and Robin was one of the best parts. It had a humorous angle that reminded me of TV shows like Moonlighting (does anyone remember that one?). I shared that I enjoyed getting to know more and more about Cormoran Strike himself as the book progressed, a man with many layers and quite intelligent. Same goes for Robin. All in all, we felt it was a promising beginning to the series and most said they would read the second book, The Silkworm. We also heard that the 3rd in the series will be published in the fall.
I felt that for some of the group, our last discussion book, Natchez Burning, may have overshadowed their reading. We talked a bit more about the next book in Greg Iles' trilogy, The Bone Tree, which has been published since our last meeting. The pace of both those books is pretty frantic and the storyline quite gripping. Almost any book would be seemingly 'slow' in comparison.
Personally, I give a thumbs up to The Cuckoo's Calling and I will be listening to The Silkworm in upcoming months. While I don't think that J.K. Rowling's mystery writing is quite on par with her Harry Potter books, I'll be willing to give her some space to develop it.
Next month, our group will be reading books that have been nominated for mystery awards such as the Edgar or Agatha. A list of these can be found on the Stop You're Killing Me website. Each of us will read whichever book or books we choose and then we'll report back to the group about our experience. We do this once a year and these meetings are always fun.