The Cuckoo's Calling
In Robert Galbraith's debut novel, supermodel Lula Landry falls from a balcony, her death is ruled a suicide and the world moves on, but not everyone agrees that this is what happened that fateful night.
Robert Galbraith got away with his Super Secret Pseudonym for all of 5 seconds before being exposed as the publishing sensation JK Rowling who was apparently gutted by it. Far better for this to be judged as a crime debut than as the ninth novel of an established author, because if it is to be judged by critics as a first novel, and it is a first foray into a specific genre, it usually gets a far kinder reception in the reviews.
I'm not really one for detective fiction, I find the patterns too predictable for one thing, so initially I was quite pleased to see that up front it is established that the young female sidekick to the old curmudgeonly private eye has just got engaged and it was the greatest moment of her life.
A-ha! I thought she's steering clear of the unresolved sexual tension, of the "possibility of more" she's trying to write something without the obvious cliches, alas it didn't last with Cormoran Strike and the literal Robin to his Batman each noticing hitherto unrecognised qualities in each other, which one presumes, will continue throughout the series.
I would really find it refreshing to have a series in which colleagues of the opposite sex didn't have to have this and instead could have the kind of purely intellectual 'romance' and deep personal esteem often gifted to two male characters but never it seems to women without their sexuality becoming involved.
Can we just talk about his name for a moment "Cormoran Strike" ? It sounds like the name of a police Operation against game poaching or a US military attack that went wrong and hit a peasant village in Fallujah. It's like she generated it with an app.
The celebrity angle is cliched from the gay black designer to the caricature of Pete Doherty, so too is Strike's link to that world. It feels slightly satirical, mocking and inauthentic.
The most cringeworthy aspect is when characters who are "lower class" or "common" enter the scene and are written phonetically or in slang to highlight how common they are. It's patronising and almost prejudiced. Oh, a black person with mental health issues, they speak like THIS.
The climax/big reveal of the culprit is done in that ranting "didn't you?....DIDN'T YOU?" style that has graced TV drama throughout the decades but the reveal creates a behaviour paradox the size of a black hole that isn't resolved and makes no sense.
I fear saying this because I think there is no way of saying it without sounding like the worst of snobs; but this novel just feels really mainstream, pitched at Mr and Mrs Average Reader, Middle England.
I mean, it's an OK book it's not amazing, it's not awful, it just feels like it belongs on the Richard And Judy List. If you want books about a private detective Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series is far superior.