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C. P. Lesley

Bookworm, writer, radio host—I blog about history, fiction, and publishing in the Internet Age. You can find the full blog on my website. This space is for books.

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

I wonder what the critics would have said about this book if it really had been written by an unknown named Robert Galbraith. I notice most of the blurbs focus on Cormoran Strike, the detective—which is fitting because he is the only character with any depth throughout the first half of the novel. Moreover, because he doesn't believe until about halfway through that a crime has occurred, the reader has no reason to root for him: he's a basically nice guy with enough problems to seem real, some self-inflicted, others the result of circumstance, but he doesn't want anything badly except to pay his bills and (maybe) reconnect with the woman who throws him out in chapter 1. As a result, the book long lacks any narrative drive. Had it not been written by J.K. Rowling, I probably would have put it down around p. 75.

Sticking in there was worthwhile. At p. 200 or thereabouts, the plot suddenly picks up. Strike gets serious about his investigation, so the reader has a reason to care what he finds out, and his interviews with this character or that finally bring them and the victim to fictional life. The story rips along then until the ending, which I found completely implausible. I had even followed the clues and decided that solution would make no psychological sense. But you may disagree.

So one star for the first half, five stars for the second half, and 2.5 stars for the ingenuity of the ending despite its unbelievability. I'll be interested to read The Silkworm to see how it compares.