Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

published 2013










[investigating the dead woman’s movements] “She had an appointment at home with a make-up artist she knew, and her friend Ciara Porter joined her there. You’ll have seen Ciara Porter, she’s a model. Very blonde. They were photographed together as angels, you probably saw it: naked except for handbags and wings. Somé used the picture in his advertising campaign after Lula died….”

Midnight found Strike drinking a can of lager and reading about the posthumous controversy that Bristow had mentioned, of which he had been vaguely aware while it unfolded, without being very interested. A furore had sprung up, a week after the inquest had returned a verdict of suicide, around the advertising shot for the wares of designer Guy Somé. It featured two models ... Both wore huge curving angel’s wings

Strike stared at the picture for minutes, trying to analyse precisely why the dead girl’s face drew the eye so irresistibly, how she managed to dominate the picture…





observations: So the big question is, of course, would you have known it was JK Rowling writing this is you hadn’t been told? I don’t think I would have known for a moment (despite all the classical tags – Classics was Rowlings’ subject, and Latin resonates through the Harry Potter books): but I’m pretty certain I would have thought it a very unlikely book to have been written by a man. About three-quarters of it is written from a male POV, and that seems to be done very well, no complaints – but the bits about women and their interactions and clothes are very real and convincing, too much so for most male writers. If anything, I might have thought it was a male/female double, like Nikki French.

And of course once you know – well, the only other famous writer with the initials JK is the economist JK Galbraith.

And is it good? Yes, it’s excellent – not perfect, but highly enjoyable. It’s very traditional: someone is dead, a member of the family isn’t happy, a private detective is brought in. We happily follow his investigations, which occasionally get bogged down in a bit too much of who was where at exactly what time, and who exactly went into or out of the block of flats. He has a messy personal life, a temporary assistant (who is going to leave the job any minute…. any minute… still there) and a good line in spotting clues. The logistics of the solution are well-worked-out, but defy belief, but that's OK.

The book is set among some very, very rich people, and it is quite entertaining to contemplate that JK Rowling really is that rich, unlike most people who write about that world. She knows whereof she speaks.

There is every sign that this is going to be a series, and that is undoubtedly good news.

There’ll be another entry on the book later. 


Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (which we also liked very much) featured on the blog here and here.

The photograph is by Denise Perry – see her website here.

12 comments:

  1. Moira - Oh, you picked up some fascinating clues in the novel as to its author. Clever! And of course, I'm glad you liked the novel. I find it interesting that for some books, we're willing to put aside our disbelief even though we aren't for others.

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    1. Yes indeed, I can't tell what makes the difference, but sometimes a completely unbelievable ending just is very satisfying, for other reasons.

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  2. Moira, I'm going to give this a go even though it's a bit outside my normal preferences - don't read much crime stuff. Cheers

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    1. I enjoyed it very much, it's a very modern setting, but quite an old-fashioned way of telling the story and solving the crime...

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  3. Moira, I did at one point want to read the HP books. My son read them all and I was interested enough, but never got around to it. I guess I'm not going to now.
    As for her post-Potter writing, I don't feel inclined to try her........at least just not yet anyway.
    Does seem to me a bit of a cynical marketing ploy at play here, though that doesn't mean the book is either any better or worse than it was pre-revelation.

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  4. How did you manage not to read HP - did your children not make you? Mine did! And we listened to the audio endlessly on long car journeys. I like JKR, I think she's a better writer than some give her credit for. I do wonder if her publishers were up to no good with this whole thing?

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    1. I think I did sit through all the films at the cinema and countless times since at home. And I did take all 3 along to a couple of book launches when the children were younger.
      Oh what fun, 3 young kids, working 2 jobs and standing around in the freezing cold for 3 hours at midnight surrounded by 100's of wannabee 10 year old wizards and witches and my 3 muggles!
      I want a parent of the year award, me!

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    2. I feel your pain Col. I went to a proper launch at a proper bookshop, all the kids dressed up, long long queues outside the shop and then again at the till. Then I found that our local 24-hour Tesco casually opened the box of books at one minute to midnight - you could walk in at 5 to, and walk out at 5 past with the book. No atmosphere, of course, and no parent-of-the-year award, but it was Tesco all the way after that.

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  5. Hello, Moira! I'd like to read this book mainly to put my impressions of Rowling (now that we know she wrote it) as the writer of the Harry Potter books well behind me. I want to read some regular fiction by her and I'm hoping to read both THE CUCKOO'S CALLING and THE CASUAL VACANCY. I thought "Robert Galbraith" was a smart marketing trick; suddenly everyone's rushing to read "her" new book.

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    1. Hi Prashant! I'm sure you'll find them interesting - they are very different from Harry Potter, and I think very good, though I'm sure not everyone will agree. You do have to wonder about the mysterious story of the unknown author - I don't think she needs the money, but I'm sure her publisher is very happy at this sudden rise to bestsellerdom.

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  6. You have convinced me that this is worth reading, but I will be waiting until I find a copy at a decent price. I have read 6 of the 7 HP books; I am assuming this will have a different style and feel.

    Off topic, I did get my copy of The Little Shadows, in the trade paper edition I wanted (UK). I am thrilled, reading some snatches makes it seem very good, and I hope I don't have to wait too long to read it.

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    1. Very different from Harry Potter - and very much a grown-ups book. I hope you will enjoy both this, and the Little Shadows Tracy.

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