The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
This is a good ol’ fashioned murder mystery with a private eye and a beautiful rich victim who jumped to her death. Or did she? As usual, I listened to this book instead of reading it, so I have to guess on the spelling of the names.
Cormorant Strike is the down-on-his-luck private eye whose relationship with his fickle-yet-gorgeous fiancee has just imploded. But his luck changes when the wealthy client John Bristol and the preternaturally competent temp Robin show up on the same day. John Bristol hires Strike to find out the truth behind his famous sister’s death. Lula Landry died by falling from her third floor balcony one cold and snowy night, and all the efforts of the police were unable to deduce anything but suicide.
What I liked about this book is the variety of different people Strike encounters. There are super-rich old-money types, glamorous and brittle celebrities, shrewd but venial homeless people, hardworking but myopic staff, and of course everyone had a different accent, which was brilliantly voiced by Robert Glenister. Was it Lula, Lulu, or Lular Landry? Doesn’t matter. I loved the accents.
For the most part, this was very well done. The ways the different characters interacted with each other, in particular Robin and Cormorant, seemed true and accurate. It’s not just that the author seemed to understand the currents flowing between the characters in any one scene, it’s that Cormorant seemed to understand it too, and was able to navigate them deftly. For example, in one scene, Cormorant and Robin are at a fancy boutique, pretending to be a brother and sister shopping for a gift for the brother’s wife. Robin tries on a beautiful dress, and when she comes out, Cormorant averts his eyes and becomes cold because she looks really hot in the dress and he knows that their professional relationship can’t withstand too much physical attraction, especially with the jealousy of her fiancee mixed in.
I can’t talk too much about the plot of the book because part of the fun of a mystery is figuring out whodunnit, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Suffice it to say that by the time the book was over, I started to feel sorry for Lula, as if she were a real person.
My main complaint was in the stupidity of the killer. The killer had no reason whatsoever to talk to Cormorant Strike, nothing to gain and everything to lose. Strike’s reasoning, that “you’re batshit crazy” is weak. I would have fingered the killer halfway through the book, except for thinking how illogical that decision was. I imagine that decision was made in order to throw us off the scent, but it did so by making the character do something so unreasonably foolish that it kind of spoiled the big reveal for me. It felt like a cheap trick to make us not suspect the killer.
Still, I liked the characters, and I liked how they interacted with each other, and I’d be open to reading more by this author. (Hah. I didn’t know it was a pseudonym until just now. Well, I’m tickled.)