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Bookends: The Mystery of the Falling Supermodel December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Mystery of the Falling Supermodel

By Dan Davidson

September 25, 2013

– 845 words –

 

Cuckoo's Calling

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling

(J.K Rowling)By Robert Galbraith

Mulholland Books;

464 pages

$29.00

At this point everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is the pen name of J.K. Rowling, and that the book wasn’t selling all that well before someone tweeted the whistle on the real name of the author. Prior to that revelation not many people had bought it or reviewed it, but all the published reviews rated it highly. At Amazon it was ranked 4,709 on the bestseller lists, but it jumped to number 1 once the word was out.

I freely admit that this is when I acquired my e-book copy from the KOBO folks and sat down to check it out. I was expecting that it would be a passable read. I was one of those people who enjoyed A Casual Vacancy when it came out last year and I know that my review here caused a few other people, who also weren’t disappointed, to give it a try.

I’ll have to admit that one of the advantages of the e-book format was that I was able to look up all the British slang that she used without having to carry a dictionary around.

Like Rob Sawyer, whose Red Plant Blues I reviewed here a while back, Rowling has studied the form of the private eye novel and uses it well.

Cormoron Strike is an interesting character, a down-at-the-heels former British soldier  (apparently an MP) who lost a leg in the Afghan conflict. He is the illegitimate son of a famous 60s rock star named Jonny Rokeby. He has recently broken up with his on-again-off-again girlfriend. He is badly in debt and is not doing well, so when John Bristow knocks on his door and offers him a major retainer to investigate the apparent suicide of his sister, Lula Landry, a famous fashion model, Strike accepts.

The book actually begins with Landry’s death scene, some three months earlier, and then moves on to introduce us to the recently engaged Robin Ellacott, who has come to Strike from a temp agency. Robin has romantic notions about what it will be like to work with a private eye, even if it’s just for a short time. She is very intelligent and competent, and brings a new level of efficiency to Strike’s business.

Rowling’s approach to the detective story owes a lot to the American hardboiled style. Strike’s personal life is a mess. There are a lot of distractions for him. He’s still moving out of his ex’s apartment. He has a sister who oozes disapproval. He would like to have a better relationship with her but really can’t seem to do anything right. He is depressed and still recovering from a degree of posttraumatic stress disorder.

He’s actually living in his office, sleeping on a folding cot. He’s trying to cope with his artificial leg and not having a very good time of it. He’s well into the story before he really begins to focus and apply what turns out to be a considerable degree of intelligence to the case.

While the narrative is mostly from Strike’s point of view, a fair amount of space is given to Robin as well It is through her eyes that we first see Strike, who bumps into her on the stairwell outside his office, almost knocking her down and only rescuing her by grabbing an unfortunate part of her anatomy.

“Her accidental assailant was massive; his height, his general hairiness, coupled with a gently expanding belly, suggested a grizzly bear. One of his eyes was puffy and bruised, the skin just below the eyebrow cut. Congealing blood sat in the white-edged nail tracks on his left cheek and the right side of his thick neck, revealed by the crumpled open collar of his shirt.”

It was hardly an auspicious first meeting, but she finds that he grows on her as time passes. Her fiancée, Matthew, is less than pleased with her decision to stick out the week of her initial employment and even more unhappy when she decides to continue with Strike as the plot in the investigation thickens.

And thicken it does. There are a lot of red herrings and plot twists in this story and something like two dozen characters to keep track of. The book now has its own Wikipedia page, with a complete list of characters and 27 notes and references links.

Rowling has written that she would have liked to have kept the penname a secret for a couple more books. She has already written the next book in what she intends to be a series and appears to have been doing more or less what Eric Clapton did when he hid out in Derek and the Dominoes – finding out whether she could still be appreciated without the cachet that went with her own name.

Personally, I don’t think she needs to worry about that. Two books away from Harry and his buddies and she seems to be doing just fine.

 

-30-

 

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