My uncle lent me The Poet by Michael Connelly because we were talking about how I like mystery stories. He told me this was one of the better detective novels he has read. At fist I had trouble figuring out what he saw in this story, it started out very slow. But once I got to about the halfway mark the story went from zero to sixty and I could not put it down. What at first appears to be a simple detective novel is much more. It is full of twists, turns and suspicion on every page.
Jack McEvoy’s is a reporter whose specialty is death. A specialty that takes on a whole new meaning after he takes the case of his brother’s apparent suicide.
The novel starts with Jack learning about the death of his brother. In his shock and dismay, he begins to doubt the actions of his brother. He had a complicated relationship with his brother but he knew that suicide was not something his brother would have done to himself and his family. Jack begins to look into the details of his brother’s death more and finds that things are not as they seem (a theme for this novel). He begins to look into other cases of homicide detective suicides and finds evidence of a string of murders.
Jack takes his case to the local PD and then to the FBI where they begin to investigate a serial killer. It is an investigation that brings out much more than any of those involved was hoping to find.
As I stated above the story started out pretty slow. Jack has to deal with his brother’s death. Then he begins to question things and has to find the evidence that proves his brother was murdered. That research leads into more investigation into similar cases. Much of the first portion of the story is him looking up everything, which can be a bit dry.
The momentum of the story picks up when Jack gets the FBI involved. The case is open and they hit the ground running. A cast of new characters shows up which adds much-needed conflicts. The investigation begins and with it a sense of something not being quite right also begins to plague the reader.
Connelly carefully crafts an air of suspicion around the story. Something feels off about one of the new characters and the circumstances that take place during the investigation. As I read I just could not place my finger on what was wrong.
Connelly does a great job of giving us characters to doubt but then pulling that doubt away. One of the detectives is harsh and unlikable for much of the story. But then Jack spends time alone with him and you learn there is more to him than we initially thought. The female leader and romantic interest doesn’t feel right either. She latches onto Jack quite quickly and I wondered why. But her interactions with Jack made her not seem all that bad when they were alone. Every time I thought I had it all figured out Connelly would throw a wrench into the mix and I would begin to question everything all over again.
By the time I got to the end I did not have any real idea of what was going on. I just knew that something was not right and I was eager to learn what it was. When the reveal came I was thrown off my feet. I had a lot of suspicions and thoughts and none of them matched what happened. I did not see the ending coming at all and I love that.
One of the reasons Connelly was able to keep the reader guessing until the very end was the way he incorporated chapters from one of the suspects points of view. We get a few chapters giving us an insight into what he was doing and why. He is a demented individual and he elicited no sympathy from me. I wanted him to be caught and taken down.
Not only did these chapters gives us an interesting look into this character’s mind but it also played a part as sort of red herring. We think he is the only culprit in this whole thing and that makes suspecting anyone else difficult. We know he is working alone, we know where he is and where everyone else is at the same time. I wanted to try to force pieces to fit with him but couldn’t.
It wasn’t until the end that you learn that he was only one piece of a much bigger puzzle. The way Connelly laser focuses our attention on that point but is doing so much more behind us is fantastic. It is like going to see an illusionist. They are showing you one thing, making you think that is all that counts but they are actually doing so much more just out of your eye line. Connelly does that with this story.
You realize with about 100 pages left that something is still coming but you have no real idea of what. I kept reading and flipping pages because I had to know what was truly happening. I loved the way that played out. It kept me intrigued and wrapped up in the story until the very end.
I also loved how the whole thing ultimately ended. There was no happy smiling ending. It ended exactly how I suspected this type of story to end. There are a lot of lives disrupted by the events and everyone involved isn’t going to be content and calm for a while. I am glad things weren’t forced into a happy-ever-after type ending. The story was twisted and tore apart a lot of lives during the course of its telling, giving us a more true look into what this type of life could actually be like.
I was excited when I found out that Robert Galbraith was writing another Cormoran Strike novel. I had thought that Cuckoo’s Calling was a single book, not part of a series. It very easily could stand alone, but it also works very well for the start of a series about this man and his mission to make a name for himself. I really enjoy these novels, even though the detective genre is not normally my go-to place for a new book.
As I read this story I tried to determine what it is about detective stories that I can’t get into. I love puzzles/riddles and mysteries but for me there has to be more to the story then just who is the killer and why. I love shows like Bones because I love the characters while the mystery aspect takes a back seat for me. And I think that is why I love these books so much. The mystery aspect is important but it is not central to the story, the story is about Cormoran and Robin finding themselves.
We left Cormoran on a sort of high at the end of the last novel. He was getting over his breakup and he was starting to make a true name for himself. In this story we see that the image he is trying to create is very fragile, that high and happiness is a teetering tower that could fall over at any moment.
Strike is a very independent man. He does not need anyone’s help. When he struggles to get out of a cab Robin knows to let him struggle, he would not appreciate helping him in any fashion. He does not want to live off of anyone else’s charity. He is a veteran who lost his leg protecting his country and he does not want anyone’s pity. He will not see the limitations that stand before him.
Strike strives to cover up what he is lacking by showing the world his true capabilities as a detective. If he can get the world to see how good he is at his job, then they will not see what he is lacking physically. This become his goal in life to prove to the world that he is more than a man missing a leg and also that he is more than the son of a famous rockstar; none of that will define him. Strike is the only one who can define himself.
Throughout this novel we see him constantly fight with his prothesis He should not have it on most of this book, since it is hurting him, but he will not let others see him without it. He will not be pitied. He will be respected for the man that he is. He also refuses to show how poor he really is. He takes cabs he can’t afford as well as paying for lunches he knows he doesn’t have the money for. Admitting he can’t afford these things is a sign of weakness, something Strike will not show the world. His body and pocket book might not be strong but his mind is sharp and he will get the world to respect him for that.
Robin sees the real Strike. She knows how fiercely proud and stubborn a man Strike can be. She doesn’t hold that against him, she understands him. She knows what is means to want to work to show the world your true self. Robin doesn’t pity Strike, she doesn’t let him off when he does things that piss her off. She stands her ground and fights him when necessary. She keeps Strike answering for his actions, which is something Strike desperately needs. He needs someone to put him straight sometimes, point out when he is being ridiculous.
Robin is a very strong woman. In the last book we saw her kind of searching for herself. She had just gotten engaged and started a new job. She was trying to fit herself into these new roles. Now she has determined how she wants to not only play these roles but how she wants the rest of the people around her to see her.
She wants to be a detective and she let’s Strike know that. At first she is hesitant about it, getting offended when he doesn’t offer to train her. But she doesn’t let that stay holed up inside of her for too long, she opens her mouth and tells him what she wants. She fights him when he tries to change her mind. She wants this and she isn’t going to walk away because of potential issues that might arise. When Robin wants something she goes after it.
In this book she puts her relationship in jeopardy because she is so focused on this one goal. Robin is not going to choose between being married and having this career. She will have both. She wants Strike and Matt to get along to make her life easier but when they don’t she doesn’t decide she has to choose between the two. She understands both sides and becomes determined to work with both of them. Robin really steps up in this novel, she finds herself and her voice which is always nice to see. I like Robin because she does not let the obstacles get in her way. She sees them, analyzes them and determines the best way to move them out of her way.
The actual mystery part of this novel was interesting. A writers goes missing and ends up dead. Everyone becomes a suspect after it is discovered that in his latest novel he basically destroys everyone that is in his life. I won’t reveal too much about the details but I will say it was an interesting take on how easily people will judge someone based off what they write. People sometimes have a very difficult time separating fact from fiction, and when there is any resemblance to a real person then latch on and run with the comparison. When things don’t fit they make them fit. It is an interesting take on the idea of separating an artist from their work.
I enjoyed this novel very much, because as I stated before you get completely wrapped up in the lives of Strike and Robin. Both of them are real, breathing people you could find in the street, the store or at the movies. You turn pages because you want to see what happens next in their lives. You root for Robin to get what she wants and you want Strike to show the world who he truly is. You become invested in their lives, making it simple to get lost inside of the pages of The Silkworm.
I picked up The Cuckoo’s Calling because I love J.K. Rowling. As soon as I heard of her “secret” book I knew I had to read it. She is that one author I will read anything from, no matter the subject matter or style of writing.
Traditional detective novels have never been my favorite genre of books. I enjoy the mystery of the detective books but I generally find myself bored by the process. Unless there is some supernatural element or item of intrigue they are hunting for, I generally stay away from this genre. But this was a book by J.K.Rowling and I knew I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed by how entertained I was by the story. Like her other adult novel Casual Vacancy (also very good) this is more a story of getting into the depths of the two main characters, Strike and Robin than just a mystery novel.
Strike is a down and out detective on the verge of complete financial and personal ruin. Robin is a newly engaged temp who is assigned to be his secretary for a week. We become entangled in the lives of these two characters. Entangled in the ways they interact with one another, and those around them all while trying to get into the deep depths of Lula Laundry’s life and how she ended up in her grave.
Strike takes the case of further investigating Lula Laundry’s, a famous model’s, apparent suicide. A suicide her brother believes is actually murder. Strike takes the case more for the money than anything else. He has no real choice in the matter. While Robin is ultimately only assigned to help Strike for a week she sticks around, wanting to not only find the solution to this mystery but also to get closer to Strike and help him get back up onto his feet.
The investigation itself is very realistic. Rowling isn’t stingy on the details of the interviews and the process Strike has to go through to find who actually killed Lula. As you read you actually feel as if you are a detective, hunting down small pieces trying to make a bigger picture. She never tells you when something is important, never has Strike run off to write something down or hurriedly hunt through files, signifying something important has happened. You as the reader pick on the subtle aspects of what the characters say and do and you begin to realize, like Strike, the truth behind this mystery.
Lula Laundry’s life mirrors Strike’s in so many aspects it gets a little bit scary for Strike. He sees himself in this case, he sees how far he could fall and what the end result could be. Though Lula doesn’t actually commit suicide, Strike sees how she could have ended up in that place. We as readers watch as he investigates this young woman’s life and we see Strike become more and more frightened yet intrigued. He has to find the answer, not only for Lula but for himself. We follow him from his lowest point in life and watch as he begins the climb up to a stable place. Rowling writes this parallel so well, holding onto the reader.
Strike is actually a very smart man, one who understands his surroundings and lives very much in the reality of his current predicament. Whereas Robin is initially more idealistic, she’s on the way to getting married to the love of her life and on the verge of finding a job to finance her new future. When she comes to Strike she has a very romantic idea of what a detective should be like and how the life should be. While we meet Strike at his lowest, we meet Robin at her highest.
We follow Strike as he begins to move up and we watch as Robin begins to become more realistic. She doesn’t fall, but she quickly realizes what reality is really like. She sticks around, intrigued not only by the case but by Strike. She wants to help him, she wants to watch him get back onto his feet. They become close, not romantically, but in a friendship that is real and strong. Both are reluctant to let the other in at first but quickly learn that they have to help one another, they become compliments for each other.
The culprit of the case is not exactly shocking, it is more the reason why they did it that makes you drop your jaw a little. The end gives us a solution to the case and hope for Strike and Robin. Strike is getting control of his life while Robin is now on the course of beginning to live the life she truly always dreamed of.
J.K. Rowling wrote characters in Harry Potter that were vivid and real, characters we could all get close to. They had true depth and lives that we became involved in, we didn’t want to watch them suffer but we rejoiced when they finally triumphed. That aspect of her writing was and always will be her strongest aspect. She writes these characters we become invested in, we want them to succeed and find themselves. We don’t want them to suffer but we understand why they have to, we see why they have to struggle. Cuckoo’s Calling shows us yet again why J.K. Rowling will be an author studied and adored for centuries to come.