Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)

News that JK Rowling is planning a spree of the crime novels she is writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith hardly comes as a surprise given their popularity and the general critical praise (if not acclaim) they’ve received.

She’s currently writing the third in the series, and by happy coincidence I recently read the first two: The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, the first of which I’ll deal with here.

I really enjoyed it. If there is a tone of surprise associated with that statement, I suppose there shouldn’t be, because whatever you think of Rowling’s Harry Potter books, for which she's best known, it’s undeniable that she knows her to create a world and characters with whom the reader can identify.

Cormoran Strike has the requisite odd name and compelling behaviour that such private investigators demand, and his relationship with his new assistant is a highlight, as is the enigmatic plotting that is in contrast to the generally gentle pace at which the tale unfolds. Although I consider myself a veteran of this genre, to the extent that I tend to gain more fun in working how the author will get to the big reveal rather than having to work out ‘whodunnit’, there were enough twists and turns to sow a satisfying amount of confusion.

All told, The Cuckoo Calling is an enjoyably easy and rewarding read. If that sounds lukewarm in its praise it’s because the novel is solid rather than spectacular, a criticism that has long been applied to Rowling’s writing. Many argue that the Harry Potter series didn’t do enough to stretch its readers, regardless of their age, but perhaps this view doesn’t credit enough qualities such as a sense of place and character that connect with readers in a way that weightier novels often struggle to.

So, rating time:

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere) - 7/10

Next up: The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)

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