Monday, January 13, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling: The True Crime - It wasn't great

Crime dramas are not my genre, so if this particular entry seems harsh and you are someone who loves crime thrillers, my lack of knowledge may be the reason I didn't love this book.  I did; however, get very excited when my book club chose The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling's pseudonym) because it was celebrated as one of the year's best books.  The plot seemed intriguing enough: Cormoran Strike, a down and out detective who recently returned as a wounded soldier from a tour in Afghanistan and recently broke up with his somewhat vindictive (although beautiful) girlfriend of 15 years, hires a new, temporary secretary the same day that an intriguing, potential client walks through his door.  John Bristow, who knows that Strike was friends with his brother who suffered from a horrible childhood accident and died, wants Strike to investigate the highly publicized death of his famous sister, Lula Landry.  Her death was deemed a suicide, but Bristow doesn't believe his beloved sister committed suicide and he wants Strike to find out the truth behind the murder. Strike's heart tells him not to take this case since Landry's suicide was over publicized and over investigated, but his head and lack of any type of income (he's so poor he has taken to camping out in his office with only one bag of belongings with him).

I couldn't wait to read this book since it was quite a change of pace from my usual family drama or YA reading.  I wanted a fast paced, heart pumping crime drama, and instead what I got from this book was what felt like a stereotyped facsimile of a crime novel.  I loved the Harry Potter series and the clever names throughout the story lines, but in an adult novel, the wacky names and silly plot twists didn't feel the same and left me feeling a bit agitated.  Instead of feeling like "a gritty, absorbing tale" as People Magazine touted, the grittiness of this novel was the agitation I felt when the plot unraveled.  The silly conclusions and the heavy handed insider's world of the rich and famous left me wanting some sense of reality.  Instead, as I was reading, I continually felt like I was reading a fantasy version of a crime novel.  Here is the dramatic turn around of the rock bottom detective whose famous father shunned him.  Here is the loyal secretary who only wants to help.  Here is the crazy fashion designer who loved Lula and wants to show off his world to the sad detective.  Here is the jilted boyfriend who is into drugs and has anger issues.  Nothing felt developed enough for me to care or be drawn in and I wanted more.

I did race to the end of the book as the pace picked up and Strike went deeper into Lula's family life.  I did enjoy how he pieced things together, but that even felt a bit forced to me as I wanted grit and I wanted a semblance of the raves and high praise that this book garnered.  By the end of the book, I was glad it was over, but I did enjoy Cormoran Strike's character.  I can see Rowling creating an entire series of crime drama books featuring the unlikely hero Cormoran Strike where he, against all odds, solves even the most impossible mysteries.  Will I read another Strike tale - probably not, but I am glad I read this one even if it didn't live up to all the hype surrounding it because I know that anything that Rowling writes and in whatever genre, people will read it and make them bestselling novels.

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