Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)

Hope you like swearing! And interviews!

So The Cuckoo's Calling is a fairly weak murder mystery from J.K. Rowling, who wrote it as a pseudonym, probably because it sucks. Now, it doesn't suck too much in terms of writing style; it's written competently, and the dialogue is very good, and the structure of the individual chapters is realistic and well composed. It sucks for reasons outside of those.

First up, the language. No need whatsoever for it to be so profanity-laden, and it does detract from the story. It also has some fairly ridiculous character names (the main character is named Cormoran Strike) and it has a very large plot hole that undoes the entire book. Below are spoilers.

A supermodel is murdered, but everyone, including the police, are flatly convinced it is a suicide. The model's brother hires a failing private detective to investigate it, particularly the mystery of a masked runner who was caught on CCTV running away from the murder shortly after it was committed, very late at night.

It turns out that the runner was the model's long-lost brother, who was visiting her at 2 am and was masked. Uh-huh. He saw her fall from her apartment balcony, and it spooked him so he ran. And the brother who hired the private detective was the murderer. So....

1) Why did he hire a detective to prove that his sister was murdered? What murderer does that?
2) Why did the long-lost brother flee the scene, and why was he even there at all at 2 am? No one would do that. And why was he masked?

The answers the book provides:

1) None, although you sort of gather from the subtext that it was so the detective could find the long lost brother runner, who you assume is a 'loose end,' even though when they do find him he is 100% convinced he witnessed a suicide. Why put the detective onto the murder idea? Why not just do a missing person investigation, like to find the runner so you can see if he knew 'why the model killed herself.' There are far less risky ways to have gone about this without hiring a detective to basically convict you of murder.
2) "She was eccentric" and wanted him to come over late at night. He was masked because it was cold, officially, but unofficially it was so that he wouldn't be easily identified on the CCTV, thus giving a reason for this ridiculous plot to exist.

There are other problems but it's not worth going into really, other than to say that 95% of the book is the detective interviewing suspects in real time. Each chapter is some other person he talks to and gets slightly more of the puzzle from. The limo driver, the fashion designer, the friend, blah blah blah.

It's not funny, it's not interesting, it's really not worth your time unless you're a dispassionate admirer of writing from a technical standpoint, and only then just on a chapter-level. Structure-wise, the book is a mess. Who wants to read 400 straight pages of witness interviews? There is no action in this book. Nothing happens to anyone. The detective makes appointments for his interviews and people go to them and he talks to them and writes it down.

I would say that I could write a better book, but of course if I could I would have done so by now and bloggers could be ripping on it AS WE SPEAK and I will chuckle from my writing mansion, saying 'sucks to be you, bloggers,' while I ride around on my solid gold horse. (It has wheels.)

But since I haven't done any of these things, your best bet is to read something else. Maybe this blog? I get like a penny or so every time you read something, so go read 100 things and I will be able to buy most of a fourth of a gallon of gas.



H Payton said...

Thank goodness someone else noticed the HUGE flaw in the plot of this book, Why would the murderer ask for the case to be investigated???

Anonymous said...

How did Cormoran know Tony was doing Ursula? How did he figure out it was John who murdered Lula? How did he know the water on the stairs was from the roses? Why did Tony think John killed Charlie, what did he see? Did he actually see John do it? There are so many conclusions that Cormoran came to that we as readers are never told HOW he came to those conclusions. Him knowing Lula had written a will was a jump too. I care less about why John hired Cormoran...John wasn't sane and thought he would successfully frame Jonah. He thought he had his bases covered. Eh, that works for me, who knows why insane people do the things they do. The fight scene at the end was only about a page, that bothered me too. Also, Robin was not really a needed character and she was very one dimensional and annoying after a while. It was weird and useless to have things from her perspective in the beginning, or have so much focus on her being engaged. I thought it would be pulled together and make sense by the end, so when I read the last page I was quite let down. Man I could go on and on...