The CUCKOO Is CALLING for You to Read This Hardboiled Mystery Novel

Famed supermodel Lula Landry has plummeted to her death from her third-story balcony in what the police assume is a suicide. But three months later, her brother John Bristow seeks out private detective Cormoran Strike and presents some compelling evidence that Lula was actually murdered. Strike is warily convinced, but he desperately needs the money and so enters this world of models, designers, and film producers to discover the truth.

book-articleInlineBy now we all know that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. So much of the novel’s form and voice is reminiscent of Rowling’s writing (including the 5-part division that mirrors The Casual Vacancy); and Calling is filled with Rowling’s Dickensian character names—Rochelle Onafide, Freddy Bestigui, Kieran Kolovas-Jones. (Of course, it’s easy to see the similarities knowing Galbraith’s identity, but those few who read the book before his true identity leaked had no idea Rowling was behind it.) That being said, a hardboiled mystery novel would be a natural extension of Rowling’s writing abilities considering all the great mysteries that filled her Harry Potter series.

Strike is a likable yet gruff protagonist with an intriguing backstory that is slowly revealed throughout the novel. More amusing is his temporary secretary Robin who fancies herself a detective as well, donning aliases and scouring the internet for clues (if you’ve ever wanted to be a sleuth, then you’ll easily identify with her). In fact, all of the characters in the novel are striking in their own way. Rowling vividly describes these characters while attributing recognizable accents and speech patterns (you’ll be thinking in a British accent by the time you finish this book).

The biggest problem with the novel is its length. At 450 pages, it seems to be exceptionally long for a mystery novel. But Rowling’s sprawling style is entertaining enough that you never really get bored reading it. It is also very dialogue heavy with so much of the story being revealed by Strike’s interviews with the various people in Lula’s life. Some find that problematic, but I greatly enjoy dialogue scenes and found it very enjoyable. (Until the end, when the dialogue-heavy climax feels clichéd and lazy.)

The style of The Cuckoo’s Calling is more reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Dashiell Hammett as opposed to contemporary crime fiction. It has a nostalgic air that adds to its appeal. This is the kind of mystery novel that would suck in many a reader, even those disinclined to read mystery/crime fiction.

 

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Gone Girl

The line, “I’m a big fan of the lie of omission,” (said by possible wife killer Nick) perfectly sums up author Gillian Flynn’s writing in Gone Girl. Her prose style is compulsively readable and enjoyable, but the reader is quick to learn that not everything is as it seems. Flynn has packed enough unpredictable twists and turns into this genius novel to keep any reader full engaged to the very last page.

The story opens with Nick discovering that his wife has gone missing. Quickly the police are involved and all the clues seem to point to Nick as the culprit. As we follow Nick’s attempts to find his wife (did he really kill her?), we also follow her diary entries from the previous years that tell the story of her and Nick’s relationship. Amy comes off as a great wife who has recently been stuck in a souring relationship (but did Nick really kill her?).

It’s not long before we realize that we can’t trust Nick (he tells us in almost every chapter that he’s lying about things), but there is also something that doesn’t quite sit right with Amy’s narrative either (and when you start part two, you’ll know why). Flynn has created two deeply flawed characters that you concurrently sympathize with and despise.

Though this novel is classified as a mystery/thriller, it’s truly a character-driven story about a married couple at the darkest time of their lives. Flynn’s pacing and plotting of the story are perfect, always giving enough to advance the story but without revealing everything. She also has a gift for description that’s concise and incisive.

This book is definitely one of the greatest books of 2012. I highly urge all of you to read it.

P.D. James Brings DEATH TO PEMBERLEY While Breathing New Life Into Jane Austen’s Beloved Characters

Six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Darcy is throwing the annual Lady Anne Ball and everything is going smoothly. But, as close friends and family are celebrating the night before, her sister Lydia unexpectedly bursts into Pemberley screaming that her husband Wickham is dead. So begins the latest work of crime fiction by master writer P.D. James.

Turns out, Wickham isn’t dead; but he is found holding the bloody corpse of his friend Captain Denny in the middle of the woods. Darcy himself is quickly involved and stays involved throughout the investigation and trial of Wickham. The novel gives a very interesting look into the British legal system of the time. And James gives some very Dickensian twists to our favorite Austenite characters.

Many secrets abound in this tale, but James juggles them easily while also seamlessly introducing us to some of the other new characters that didn’t exist in Pride & Prejudice. (Austen fans will also enjoy the few moments when characters from other Austen books are fleetingly referred to.)

Although some parts of the book seem to drag, know that everything will be resolved in Elizabethan fashion—in other words, 3-page-long monologues delivered in the final chapters will reveal all.  And if, in your course of guessing whodunit, you begin to suspect lycanthropic involvement (Full moons! Mysteriously ill people!), then you have merely read too many supernatural books. Don’t worry; this isn’t Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (although that book is also really good, just in a different way).

Death Comes to Peberley is great way to revisit old friends and see what they’ve done with their lives. James creates believable futures for Austen’s characters while also reexamining their choices made in P&P. Just be warned, Austen fans, that after reading this book you will want to revisit Austen’s classics.