The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith Actual rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

It’s not fair, but Queen J.K. gets a bump up just for being Queen J.K.

If we’re being honest here, and I believe we should be in this book review, I would have dropped the book early on. It’s not that it’s a bad book, but there are mistakes galore in the first portions of the book. Maybe it’s just my edition, because I can’t imagine these getting past an editor.

Landry’s rosy, golden-hued morning mood might easily have turned dark and hopeless in the day and half a night that had preceded her death; he had known it happen.

First, the glaring grammatical flaw is the clause after the semicolon. Something needs to be done with that ‘happen.’ It can’t just stay like it is. Does she mean something had happened? Or does he know it to happen?

Second, do you have a thing against semicolons? Well strap yourself in, because J.K. doesn’t use them sparingly. Not always correctly, either. I don’t even understand all the rules to semicolons, but the few I do were fairly ignored. Hardly a page went by without a semicolon ruining a perfectly good sentence by making it a run on.

There were friends all over London who would welcome his eagerly to their homes, who would throw open their guest rooms and their fridges, eager to condole and to help.

I think that’s supposed to be ‘him’, isn’t it?

Those are the two I had highlighted, but there are many more within the first fifty pages. Were I reading anyone else’s work, I would have dropped it. But this is Queen J.K., so I pushed on.

As for the writing style in general…it works when it works, and it doesn’t when it doesn’t. The dialogue is wonderful, but some of the descriptions get overly tedious and overly long. Would anyone read the below without skimming it?

His grubby fingers passed over a string of what seemed to be rosary beads; numerous empty cigarette packets with bits of card torn out of them; three lighters, one of them an engraved Zippo; Rizla papers; tangled leads unattached to appliances; a pack of cards; a sordid stained handkerchief; sundry crumpled pieces of grubby paper; a music magazine featuring a picture of Duffield in moody black and white on the cover; opened and unopened mail; a pair of crumpled black leather gloves; a quantity of loose change and, in a clean china ashtray on the edge of the debric, a single cufflink in the form of a tiny silver gun.

I’m exhausted writing that and Microsoft Word if freaking out because it’s an unnecessarily long sentence. And guess what? That sentence is in a MYSTERY book! Do you know what’s starkly different about reading a mystery book versus an adventure book or romance book?

Every detail can, and should matter in a mystery. Because in a mystery, you’re likely looking at that list and wondering what could have been used in the murder. What gives away the killer, if this is the killer? Does anything here absolve him?

No?

Then read that over again and tell me it isn’t an unnecessarily long list that should have been hacked to pieces.

Also, my vocabulary is by no means lacking. It’s not great, it could stand to be better, but it’s above average. There is no reason I should have to look up words every single chapter, maybe once every four pages. Thank God I read it on my Kindle. But it seemed rather unnecessary because the words were just sprinkled in, randomly. It’s like she found a thesaurus and went around replacing random words.

But the writing style worked when it worked. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work more often than not.

Luckily for Queen J.K., she has always done characters fantastically well and the plot is engaging. I guessed the murderer outright, but I am a rather diehard mystery genre fan. Regardless, it was still fascinating to watch Strike work and piece things together. It wasn’t so much about the murderer, it was what he knew, when. When the security guard reveals that he tripped, Strike seems to piece it all together and you’re like “HOW?!”

And I had a guess, but I was wrong. Which is always lovely.

By the by, did I mention this was the single most British piece of literature I’ve read in a long time? Like, if there was a mood to this book, it wasn’t tense. It was British. It’s not a bad thing, definitely not. I live in the US and have my computer hooked up to think it’s in the UK. It’s more for the news, since the US news is atrociously biased and self centered, and also so I can watch Nevermind the Buzzcocks.

But again, everything in moderation. There are a few times where I was like, yes, yes, I get it. We are in London.

And for my Americans here, the one thing that continuously kept reminding me I was in Britain was the fact that Strike, for his prosthetic leg, did NOT worry about money to see the doctor. It was pure pride that kept him at him. I can’t even imagine how expensive it would be to go through physical therapy AGAIN in the US.

The plot and characters kept this book afloat and by 40% in, I was hooked. Because there’s a smarter character than you in Strike. He’s figuring things out, hinting that he figured it out, and then leaving it there. So the entire time you’re not battling to find the murderer, you’re battling to figure it out along with Strike.

I complained a lot about the writing style because it was such a turnoff. You could see glimpses of J.K.’s signature style, but it was shrouded in poor word choices and semicolons.

DEAR GOD!

THE SEMICOLONS!

I enjoyed the book because I enjoy mystery and I liked the characters of Strike and Robin. You will know if you like either of them right off the bat. If they seem annoying to you, then I would caution against reading the whole thing.

If I was still deeply entrenched in mystery books, I would probably rate this lower. However, since it’s been a good three years since my last mystery genre party, this was a nice book to ease back into the mindset.

I would recommend this book, and I would definitely love to read sequels to see where Robin and Strike end up going.