Monday, June 23, 2014

Murder Mystery Monday #5

As promised, I've decided to resume my Murder Mystery Monday posts this summer. Ideally, every Monday for the rest of the season, I'll talk about a murder mystery book that I've recently read. While I'll try and aim for some variety in my book choices, I do have to say that the majority of these posts will deal with Agatha Christie novels. She is one of my favorite writers and with my numerous trips to used book sellers, I've stockpiled a lot of unread Agatha Christie novels.

Instead of starting this reboot with a Christie mystery, I've decided to switch things up and deal with a different murder mystery, one that many people are familiar with and one that you'll recognize if you followed my Summer Read-a-thon. The book that I've chosen to do some light discussion on is of course The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

I'm going to be honest right off of the bat and say that the only reason that I even bothered to pick this book up from the bookstore was because it was written by none other than J.K. Rowling. Having loved the Harry Potter series so much, it's really difficult to ignore the rest of her literary endeavors. That being said I found this book to be a rather lackluster read and I would hazard to say that if it didn't have her name attached to it, it probably wouldn't have done as well as it has. Nothing about this book is groundbreaking within the context of the murder mystery genre and actually has a pretty tame story.

In a nutshell this story follows Private Detective Cormoran Strike, who has been hired to investigate the death of supermodel Lula Landry. Her brother John Bristow insists that her death was not a suicide and wants Cormoran to find her murderer. 

Instead of an action packed, plot driven story readers are treated to a primarily uneventful sequence of conversations. This book is what I'd imagine following around an actual PI would feel like. From what I could tell there were no red herrings, no moments crafted to mislead the reader, and there were no weighted conversations intended to encourage the reader to create a list of suspects. Since this book focuses on a number of dialogues between the secondary characters and Cormoran, there was no real action in between to propel the novel forward. The Cuckoo's Calling just sort of stagnates and it's mostly up to the willpower of the reader to reach the final reveal.

As far as the main protagonist, Cormoran Strike, I'm of the opinion that his character might not be able to carry an entire series. As I've mentioned before it's hard to get a real conception of his identity. Sure the book gives us a neat list of facts: he lost a part of a leg in Afghanistan, he broke up with his girlfriend, his mother is dead, and his father is a famous rockstar that doesn't really acknowledge Cormoran's existence. I can't pin down exactly why I feel like I don't know enough about his character, but that's just how I felt while reading the book. I also have no concrete conception of his appearance. Some parts of the story inform us that he is a heavy set man, whose fat hangs over his pants. His "pubey" like hair is brought up numerous times, so naturally I picture him as unattractive, yet he proceeds to get hit on by a gay man, a receptionist, and has a one night stand with a supermodel. I'm not saying that type of behavior should be unusual, but those moments felt forced like the author was intentionally trying to affirm Cormoran's masculinity. 

Despite the primarily uneventful plotline, I stuck it out until the end of the novel hoping for a fantastic resolution that never really happened. Like the Agatha Christie books that I know and love, the author waits until the end to reveal everything in what I call "the info dump." The murderer, the motive, the actual process of the murder, and the aftermath are all revealed in the end by Cormoran, but if I'm being honest none of it made any sense. I do want to talk a bit about the details of the end, so if you don't want to be spoiled please skip the next paragraph entirely. You have been warned...

Just us knowing readers now? Okay. That ending was so illogical and I'm still not satisfied with how it wrapped up. I'm sorry, but in no way should John Bristow be the murder. I'll admit that the motive kind of made sense as the jealous brother out for his sister's money. The part that made me want to tear out the last 20 pages or so was the fact that even though he committed the murder and got away with it completely, he still engaged Cormoran to investigate the murder. No...No. The excuse given that he was a twisted man who wanted to make sure Lula's half brother wouldn't get her money just didn't fly with me. In fact, I actually ruled out his character as a suspect near the beginning of the novel because it didn't make any sense at all. 

End of Spoilers.

This book is the beginning of a whole series and right now I'm not entirely sure whether I'll continue the series. On one hand I'm interested to see if Rowling will develop Cormoran and Robin's character more, but on the other hand I'm not up for another 400 pages of pure conversation. I guess it will depend on my mood when I happen to walk by the next book in Barnes and Nobles. 

That ends the fifth installment of my Murder Mystery Monday Series. Did you enjoy this latest literary endeavor by J.K Rowling? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on twitter. Don't forget to check back next Monday for the next post in the series and as always, Best Wishes!!