April 29, 2013

Death of the rich and famous

By Robert Galbraith
Review by
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First-time author Robert Galbraith has added a singular new voice to the genre of crime fiction with his engaging debut novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which keeps the form of a classic mystery while introducing Detective Cormoran B. Strike, a private investigator straight out of today with a personality as offbeat as his name.

The story gains its considerable traction through two developing characters: the enthusiastic and curious Robin, a just-engaged young lady who signs on as a temp for Strike and begins to show her investigatory mettle; and Strike himself, whose rather frayed and shambling exterior hides a steady, methodical temperament and an “incurable habit of thoroughness.” He’s got a talent for remarking the details that others have passed over.

Not too far in the past, Strike was a special investigator with the military police in Afghanistan, where he lost part of a leg to a land mine. He was also engaged to a rich, beautiful and volatile woman, but the relationship ended in a hail of temper and thrown objects. Now, Strike sleeps on a cot in his office with his prosthetic leg, a stack of unpaid bills and one remaining client.

Strike receives a burst of luck when he unexpectedly gains a new case: John Bristow, a well-to-do lawyer who can pay in advance (critical for Strike), wants proof that his sister Lula, a high-living and famous model, did not jump to her death but was pushed off the third-floor balcony of her penthouse apartment. The case was closed three months earlier and her death ruled a suicide, but Bristow’s convinced that the police have failed to follow up on all the leads, and he wants Strike to find the person responsible for Lula’s death.

This engrossing story boasts a fascinating cast of fast-track suspects both repellent and attractive. Most are Lula’s compatriots, full-of-themselves celebs and hangers-on with a knack for drugs, disaster and evasion. Front and center are Somé, Lula’s exclusive designer; Evan, a temperamental boyfriend fond of wearing a wolf mask; and Deeby Macc, a streetwise rapper with chutzpah. Then there’s the couple on the second floor of Lula’s exclusive building, one of whom claims Lula was not alone just prior to her fatal plunge. Add to this list the elusive Rochelle, a homeless woman with a connection to Lula, and the result is a page-turner featuring an uncommon hero with faces both contemporary and retro.

Editor's Note: Months after this review was assigned and published, it was revealed that "Robert Galbraith" is a pseudonym for best-selling author J.K. Rowling. More details here.

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The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling

By Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books
ISBN 9780316206846

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