A Magicless Mystery

When you pick up a book by J.K. Rowling, you expect to be hooked by great characters and interesting connections and plot twists. But reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym, left me incredibly disappointed. This was my first time reading one of Rowling’s adult books, and I’m thinking it might be my last.

The book follows down-on-his-luck private investigator, Cormoran Strike, as he investigates the alleged suicide of the famous supermodel, Lula Landry. Strike needs the job, as he has just broken up with his girlfriend, is living in his office, and can barely pay his temp secretary. Strike’s investigation takes him to lunch with wealthy socialites, to a designer’s photo-shoot, and out to a club with Landry’s supermodel friend. In the meantime, the murderer strikes again, urging Strike to uncover the truth before someone else gets hurt. Despite Strike’s personal problems and an interesting past, he manages to piece together the mystery.  

While little snippets of the story were enjoyable, like the author’s use of figurative language and Cormoran’s secretary who lives out her dream of being a private eye, the mystery was magicless – and yes, I realize that mysteries don’t have wizards and wands – that’s not the type of magic I’m talking about. What I mean is, all the things I love about Rowling’s writing in the Harry Potter series – her imaginativeness, her ability to link together small details and complex plots, her lovable characters – were completely lacking in this book. Any mystery writer could have written this book. I was looking for a smart, inventive take on the mystery genre, but there was no J.K. Rowling stamp of magic. It was gritty and real, but lacked reader appeal.

Have you ever felt let down by an author you really admired? What was the book?