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Murder Among Friends

Our Discussion On: "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

Rowling uses the pseudonym Robert Galbraith for these mysteries, so we talked about the fact that there are more books in the series with these lead characters, that it is also now a British TV series, what we thought of The Cuckoo’s Calling as the lead book, and whether or not folks will be following it up with the other books in the series.

There was a general agreement that the main characters are interesting and that The Cuckoo’s Calling is a well-written (if a bit too lengthy) first mystery. We talked about how J.K. Rowling herself wanted to feel like “a new writer” and that was why she used the Robert Galbraith name. Someone mentioned that the one fiction title she has written The Casual Vacancy, came out under her real name, but didn’t do so well with readers. We speculated that since mystery was going to be a new genre for her, she may have also wanted the focus to be on the mystery not on the fact that J. K. Rowling had written it. And she does indeed do a lovely job of using the private eye conventions in believable, authentic ways while also creating a fresh and unique main character.

We spent quite some time talking first about Cormoran and then Robin. For one member, the only thing she liked about the book was Robin. While others of us found Cormoran to be a sharp, if shabby, detective, they found him too messy and dismal. Others mentioned liking his dry humor and the professionalism he shows in handling the case – with one glaring exception: one member literally “put Strike in the corner” when she reached the part where he succumbs to the model Ciara. It was both a “typical guy” thing to do, and it went completely against his expressed code (to Robin) that you had to maintain distance from those involved in the case. So we agreed: he did belong in the corner – at least for a while!

The depth and detail that the author brings into her main characters were seen as a strength of the book. They made them more believable, and for most, heightened their sympathies for the low point Cormoran is at, and the refreshing smartness of Robin in the many ways she supports both the case and Cormoran himself. We’re curious to see how their relationship develops in the subsequent stories – particularly as Robin becomes engaged to Matthew near the beginning of the story. We felt that Lula comes across as a sympathetic character in the end, while showing the expected flaws from her sudden wealth and fame. Much of the remaining time was spent talking about the consistently dismal state of very dysfunctional family relations almost all the characters are conducting.

Most members agreed that this was an engaging private eye story and that setting it “across the pond” gave American readers a different perspective for this sub-genre and that they are interested in pursuing the further adventures of Cormoran and Robin. We re-visited The Cuckoo’s Calling with an eye to following it up next year with the next book (The Silkworm). It will definitely be part of the list of books we’ll be considering!

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