When Robert Gallbraith was known as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, few copies were sold. When JK Rowling was known to be the actual name behind the pseudonym, a huge chunk in the world of readers went ballistic, scrambling to grab a copy. But here’s the deal: it disappoints. A classic whodunit, replete with the grumpy anti-hero hero with a closet full of skeletons, a secretary with whom he shares but doesn’t share a palpable chemistry and a bunch of shoddy subplots – the book isn’t exactly what you’d hope for it to be. Add to the mix a misshapen plot that doesn’t do much to keep its secret – as family secrets and strange characters from the world of glamour converge in a mish-mash of sorts.
The detective, Cormoran Strike, fails to make a mark in the reader’s heart as he should. He tries too hard to be the angry, disgruntled and grouchy detective – it almost feels like he is a parody of what he should be. A model of a dual racial lineage is found dead outside her apartment – and theories of suicide shut the case up for a while. Her brother then shows up at Strike’s doorstep, three months later, to seek to find the identity of the criminal, because, well, it was murder after all. Standing in line soon after are a range of ludicrous puppets for suspects – a bunch of models, a designer, a singer of renowned fame, a string of extra-marital liaisons, adopted children and real parentage and a host of sub-plots and intricate narratives that are not in any way necessary. Running between restaurants, nightclubs, celebrity homes and even psychiatric units, Strike pieces the case.
While much of the story unfolds in a way that only seems too convenient, there is a lot about the story itself that leaves you wanting. There is every element to it that can make the story a racy thriller with plenty to offer – but the book falls short as it degenerates into prosaic verbosity and insipid narratives. There is too much circumlocution in parts, and absolutely no build-up where there should be some.