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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

I don't like mysteries. I don't have time for Dupin or Holmes. I could care less about James Patterson or Janet Evanovich. I don't care who the killer is. I don't believe the detective on the case is all that brilliant. You like mysteries? Here's one for you: Why am I reading this book? The answer may surprise you.


The answer is The Casual Vacancy.


You expected me to say Harry Potter, didn't you? I've never read Harry Potter; I know almost nothing of the wizard. I developed my Rowling-crush because of that wonderful book that seemed to disappoint nearly everyone else. So here I am—still ignorant of Potter—diving into a second Rowling book. And a mystery on top of all that.


The reasons I don't like mysteries are simple. First of all, I find them boring. They rely too much on a premise that the reader cares who the killer was. I don't. The part of the story I want to hear is the killing itself, the lives of the victims, the tale of the killer before or after the fact—the whodunit is dreadfully boring. Second, there is only one detective who can see a bottlecap a mile away, connect it to a hair found in a haystack, and deduce that the killer is a three-hundred year old sea creature masquerading as a nighttime janitor; that is Fox Mulder. I don't buy that the average human can make the leaps that these literary sleuths can. And my final reason for not liking mysteries is that I have a stick up my ass. Literally. And mysteries rub me the wrong way. Ouch.


Enough about my dislike for the genre. Truth is, I liked The Cuckoo's Calling. Does this mean it avoids the whodunit premise? Nope. Does this mean Cormoran Strike doesn't make the most absurd leaps to solve the crime? No. Does this mean Rowling's magic has somehow removed the stick from my ass? Unfortunately not.


The Cuckoo's Calling is your typical mystery, but the characterization, pacing, and language make all the difference. It's written very well. The story may chase with the whodunit, but it doesn't rely on it. My interest in who killed Lula Landry was insignificant as I found myself wrapped in the story of who these characters were. They're not just devices used to move a mystery novel along; they're people, caught up in a mystery while the rest of the world keeps spinning. Too many mystery writers fail in this regard.


Despite the stick up my ass, I'd read another Galbraith mystery. Naturally, I worry that the series will eventually descend into the typical mystery, but for now I'm too invested in Strike and Robin to not read the next chapter in their lives. And maybe eventually I'll get around to that Potter-thing too.