This October, we’ve been reading ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith (aka. JK Rowling). After the last few books we’ve read, and the response to those, I was fairly confident that the majority of the group would love it- many of whom are crazy for crime (literature…!). I was shocked to find that when we met, the group was more divided than I had predicted!
Under the male pseudonym, Rowling set out to enrapture us in a world of the rich and famous, as a very lucrative supermodel (Lula) supposedly commits suicide. Cormoran Strike- an ex military man, now a failing and debt-ridden private detective, is hired by John Bristow, the brother of Lula, to prove that it was in fact murder. We follow Strike as he takes on the case and goes about collecting his evidence to, inevitably, solve the riddle! His investigative story is intertwined with the arrival of a new temp secretary who melts his iron heart, and becomes invaluable to him, and his crumbling office-come-bedsit. After splitting from his long-term on-off fiancé- a woman who is clearly out of his league and no good for him, Strike finds himself bedding down in his office. As he meets with the rich and the famous to investigate the case, you see a constant contrast between their lives, and this seems to be a direct mirror to the author’s clear dislike of fame and money. This made for interesting discussion, when coupled with the rather negative portrayal of the media and paparazzi. After a period of limping around London on his artificial leg that is a constant pain to him (and us) and several pints of ‘Doom Bar’ in his local pub, needless to say, Strike solved the murder, saved the day and his business! Some credit due to the aspiring detective and efficient secretary, who was helpful and kept him on the straight and narrow. All this despite her possessive fiancé’s dislike of the whole situation…
I, personally, was not overly impressed by the previous Potter creator’s attempt at an ‘adult detective’ novel. Surprisingly, a few in the group agreed with me! From the unimpressed side, we found that it felt as if he (she) was trying too hard. The use of unnecessary expletives was a put off for more than one of us. Sometimes in literature, swear words are necessary to make a point, but in this case they felt forced and an attempt to distinguish itself as a firmly adult piece of writing. However, with the exception of one, all of ‘team unimpressed’ didn’t HATE the book. It was a very readable story, (with the exception of the overuse of a thesaurus on every other sentence!) not lacking the occasional amusing moment, but not for us, a page turner. It seemed that it was entirely unforgettable, which is never a good sign in a book… But I think we could all agree that there are worse books in the world!
From the ‘loved it’ team, it was a very different story! It appears that if you love the tale, the expletives don’t exist! Maybe this is the ‘rose tinted glasses’ syndrome of reading! Many of our group were very positive about the whole thing, finding it interesting, gripping and a great read! To them, it was a page turner, a ‘couldn’t put it down’ book! From the characters to the plot, they were in their element! Many of them went on to read the next instalment of Cormoran Strike. Most who did read the next, said that it was even better- I wonder if ‘team unimpressed’ would agree… We’ll probably never know!
I think a book club is one of the rare occasions where group division is a positive thing. If we all agreed, it would surely make for a dull discussion.
(Written by Karen Thatcher.)