The Cuckoo’s Calling: The Review

The Cuckoo’s Calling; Robert Galbraith, 2013; Mulholland Books

So here I am, pretending that I don’t know who the ‘real’ author of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” is, trying to decide whether to just say to heck with it, or keep up the pretense. Am I writing a review on first time author Robert Galbraith or am I writing a review on…?

After very little debate, several cups of coffee and, writing five blogs in under four hours, I’ve decided…I’ll keep up the pretense.

For a first time author I have to take my hat off to Robert Galbraith. Not only did he tackle a very complex murder mystery, but it appears he set out to firmly establish his hero, Cormoran Strike, as someone who we will, in all likelihood, see again. Very gutsy. Very presumptuous. I’m not sure how the author would have responded had the novel gotten really rotten reviews.

But as they say, that’s neither here nor there. It didn’t and therefore the field is clear for Strike and his femme naive side kick Robin to plunge once again into the dregs of Great Britain’s rich and famous.

Over all I liked the book. Not loved it, but liked it. I felt like the pace could have been faster and the plot fifty percent less convoluted – after all, it took Striker seventeen pages just to explain it.

But…and here’s what kept me from putting the novel down. I loved the characters – good, bad and ugly. Galbraith did a phenomenal job of showing us his hero’s and villains in a way that, had I met them at a party, I’m sure I’d have recognized most of them. And for me, that is what makes or breaks an author – great characters.

I’ve read bad stories that had great character development, and I have read great stories with bad character development. Great character development will bring me back time after time – bad character development won’t get a second chance.

Does this mean that I’ll read a second Cormoran Strike novel? Yep!  And if I have any confidence in the authors ability to write great stuff (I’m done pretending now) – and I do-  I believe that once they get their murder mystery genre feet under them, it’ll only get better.

So on my readers scale of 1-5 stars I’m giving “The Cuckoo’s Calling” 3.5 stars for story and 4.5 for characters, with  an expectation for even better works to come.

The Casual Vacancy: The Review

books (1)The Casual Vacancy; 2012 J.K. Rowling;  Little Brown & Company

My first five page impression was; sweet mother of Zeus, we are not in Hogwarts any more. Between the unexpected rawness of teenage internal dialogue  (as well as that of  their parents) and the unexpected change in genre, I came within chapters of putting “The Casual Vacancy” down. But since I am first and foremost a believer in author loyalty, I  felt like I owed it to Rowling to finish the book. Which I am pleased to say, was a bloody good thing  because she has once again proven that not only is she a brilliant writer, but is an incredible student of human nature as well – particularly that of those suffering at the ass end of the social and economical whims of others.

Rowling’s characters and plot are rich, intricately textured, and are powerful enough to bring out the very worst and the very best in her readers. And, just as with her Potter peeps, she has an incredible knack for crawling right into the mind of an adolescent boy or girl  and understanding the intricacy of what it is that makes them do what they do.

images (1)Beginning with the death of Barry Fairweather  and ending with the revelatory lancing of Pagford’s festering social boils, Rowling pulls her readers beneath multiple layers of greed and ambition, resentment and hate, cruelty and bigotry,  cause and effect.  Like gazing through a two way mirror where only one observer is allowed viewing access to the other, the author has taken the lives of unsuspecting adults and put them into the hands of individuals lacking in the wisdom to understand what they see, and the character to appreciate the consequences of their actions.

The Casual Vacancy is a tense read that is guaranteed to make you clench your fists, grind your teeth, offer to slap teenagers –  as well as adults –  up long side their heads, laugh until your sides hurt, and cry because deep down inside, you know that there is nothing you could have done differently.

On my readers scale of 1-5 stars, “The Casual Vacancy” get 4.5 stars.