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The Cuckoo's CallingReview - The Cuckoo's Calling
by Robert Galbraith
Hachette Audio, 2013
Review by Christian Perring
Sep 10th 2013 (Volume 17, Issue 37)

I will admit that I wasn't interested in reading Robert Galbraith's book until it was revealed that this was the nom de plume of JK Rowling, but I have never read any of her previous books.  Nevertheless, the revelation raised the question whether the Harry Potter author could write a good detective mystery novel.  The answer is a qualified yes.  The writing is strong -- the dialog is realistic and the pacing is good.  The structure of the book is largely a series of interviews between Cormoran Strike and various characters revealing information.  The central relationship in the book is not romantic; rather, it is between Strike and his new secretary Robin.  Each of them has their own partner, although Strike's relationship is over and Robin has just got engaged to her boyfriend.  The real interest is in how Robin starts to get interested in detective work and comes to find out Strike's secrets: he is using his own office to sleep in, his detective business is in deep financial trouble, and he has an artificial leg.  By the end of the book, the two of them look like a partnership able to pursue other mysteries.

The mystery they solve in this book feels like an excuse to bring in an array of colorful characters.  A supermodel, Lula Landry, died in an apparent suicide several months ago, jumping to hear death from her apartment.  But a rich lawyer John Bristow comes to him and hires Strike to prove that Landry had been murdered.  So Strike goes around Lanry's family, employers, her pop-star boyfriend and other various friends to investigate further.  As an ex-army man, he is not particularly comfortable around people in the fashion and music industry, but he copes well, sometimes with Robin's help.  The solution to the mystery is not very plausible, but that doesn't matter much, because the main point is in the people that Strike meets, and Galbraith gets to describe, along the way.  Strike himself has a sad past of family dysfunction which also gets revealed as the story moves along, and it explains why he is so committed to uncovering the unpleasant truth behind people's lives. 

The main connection with psychology is that Landry had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and so the police were very quick to write off her death as a suicide without much thought, even though her life was going well at the time of her death.  So the story brings out the way that the stigma of mental illness means that mentally ill people are taken less seriously than those of others. 

The unabridged audiobook is performed by Robert Glenister, who does a fine job, keeping the accents of different characters convincing and consistent.  He brings energy and conviction to the telling of the story that help the reader stay engaged. 

 

© 2013 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York

 


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