Normally, people cannot associate a meandering pace with a detective novel. A detective novel has to be a race against time, it has to be a high stakes game; the protagonist has to be silent, brooding types possessing higher degree of eccentricity and clairvoyance.
But reality is scarcely romantic. Cormoran Strike is the non-romantic Sherlock. He isn’t gifted, but he is a trained detective. A methodical detective who takes notes, records conversations, swears a lot, makes love on the job, makes his assistant do the google searches and one who cares about money. And if ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ chooses to portray such a detective, it is no breach of the model code of writing crime fiction. Why have Sherlock, Poirot and Father Brown captured public imagination? Because they are distinctive. A detective has to have a distinct personality to have a greater recall value. The moment you copy someone, you might be successful for a shorter duration of time, but then in the long run, no one is going to remember your protagonist.
J.K. Rowling might not have created the most liked detective in the history of sleuths, but Cormoran Strike is likely to remain in public imagination for quite some time. A hairy giant with a paunch and an amputed leg with a boxer’s face isn’t likely to be erased from the memory anytime soon. And the ground work has already been laid in ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ – J.K. has introduced us her two primary characters, Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, his secretary. A not-quite-good-looking Sherlock and an attractive Watson – I eagerly await the next installment to see how she had explored the relationship between these two characters.
Solving an alleged suicide case is no mean feat. No fingerprints, no blood trails, no footsteps to look for under the windowsill. And the case of Lula Landry, the model presents an interesting feature. The police had already investigated and concluded it to be a suicide. After the public hue and cry dies down, a client close to the model asks Strike to kick the hornet’s nest and reopen the investigation. Nothing is what it seems.
Though, the pace as I have mentioned is slow as J.K. has not struck out the parts people skip. Yet, one is never bored while reading the book. The pace slowly builds up, heightening near the climax. Yet even in the initial stages, you wish to know more about the detective who is nearly indigent with no house of his own, mounting debts and a temporary secretary he cannot afford. J.K. has this, how do I say this, habit of subjecting her central characters to pretty hard times so that the ‘rock bottom becomes the solid foundation on which they rebuild their lives’ just like she did. And she manages to make them endearing every damn time.
So the case of Lula Landry not only provides him financial support, but also a secretary who proves to be invaluable and resourceful. Cormoran has to penetrate the glam and glitz, the superciliousness, the snobbishness and the eccentricity of the celebrity world to uncover the truth. The USP of every detective is what they see when others’ can’t. We know, at that end of this book, Cormoran Strike can hold out on his own against the crime investigators of the world.
I have never been to London (I haven’t travelled anywhere outside India!), so it became quite difficult to picture all those places that she mentions. Their significance is lost on me. I think that’s the only complaint I have. Maybe I would read this book again, as and when I visit London… 😉
I found ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ extremely readable and I eagerly await the second installment in these ‘Adventures of Cormoran Strike’.