Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)
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Archived VBC Selections > The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseud.) - VBC August 2018

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John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Welcome to our August selection, The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. Much has been written about the pseudonymous publication of the novel, the disclosure of the identity of the actual author, and the ensuing clamor; I won't go into that in this introduction.
This book introduces us to Cormoran Strike, a struggling private investigator who has just had a final breakup with his on-again, off-again fiancee, Charlotte Campbell. The story opens with Charlotte storming out of Strike's office, nearly colliding with Robin Ellacott, a young woman just moved to the neighborhood, newly engaged, and looking for Strike's office where she is to start working as a temporary secretary (unexpected by Strike). Robin and Strike meet by literally running into each other at the top of the flight of stairs, and Corcoran saves her from falling down the flight by grabbing her (in a tender spot). As the two of them regain their composure, and decide that Robin can stay to work for a week (per her contract with the temp agency), a new client (apparently a man of means) appears at the door seeking Cormoran's investigative skills. And the game is afoot...

As usual, let's allow ten days of non-spoiler comments, then open up a full discussion. Enjoy!


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I love this series - look forward to a lively discussion!


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As people are starting reading, I wonder what your sense of place is in the book.

For me, it is such a contemporary, perhaps typical, description of London, it feels very familiar to this Londoner in terms of people, language and location. . I wonder when she actually wrote it though rather than published it, as some references recall many years ago.. Done on purpose because who cares it’s a story .... ?

Did anyone see the BBC series, by the way, with Tom Burke as Strike. Definitely worth finding.


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "Did anyone see the BBC series, by the way, with Tom Burke as Strike..."

I knew they had made one, but I don't think it's made it's way across the pond yet? I'll have to go looking!


message 5: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "As people are starting reading, I wonder what your sense of place is in the book.

For me, it is such a contemporary, perhaps typical, description of London, it feels very familiar to this Londone..."


I loved the TV series and thought it was very well cast (it was on Cinemax, Erin). The star, Tom Burke, is the son of David Burke, Jeremy Brett's first Watson!
Pam, your comment was very interesting to me because I was thinking last night that one of the things I enjoyed about the book was the great sense of place. I also thought that added to the series (his office is on London's "music row" and it was cool to see the remaining record shops and the like. She also did a great job of capturing the north of England, I thought, when Strike and Robin go on their road trips.


message 6: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I meant to say earlier, I was delighted to find out yesterday that the fourth Cormoran Strike book, "Lethal White," is due out early in August - the 7th, I think. So those of us who have been following the series can dive right back into the story!


John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
I just ordered my copy of it yesterday, Merrily!


message 8: by Erin (last edited Aug 02, 2018 09:09AM) (new) - added it

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I didn't realize she was continuing the series! How cool!


John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
And it is apparently a huge book, well over 600 pages.


message 10: by Carole (last edited Aug 02, 2018 01:16PM) (new)

Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments Pam wrote: "As people are starting reading, I wonder what your sense of place is in the book.

For me, it is such a contemporary, perhaps typical, description of London, it feels very familiar to this Londone..."


It's definitely written after Harry Potter.

I was amused by the negative reviews on Amazon. Her words were too big!


Lenore | 1081 comments I just re-read this, and enjoyed it a lot. And I wouldn't mind the VBC doing more Cormoran Strike, but I was not enthusiastic about the second book, The Silkworm, because the murder was just so nauseating. (And I'm not particularly squeamish.) Although I do recognize that Galbraith/Rowling must have had some fun skewering the publishing industry. (I read that Harry Potter was rejected more than 10 times before a publisher took it on, something I repeated often to my daughter when she was seeking a publisher for her first book.)

I think Robin is a more interesting character than Cormoran. Cormoran is kind of one's typical slightly burned-out ex-military hero, but Robin really evolves over the books. After we get past the first 10 days, I really want to discuss her.


message 12: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
John wrote: "And it is apparently a huge book, well over 600 pages."

Now I'm really excited!


message 13: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "I just re-read this, and enjoyed it a lot. And I wouldn't mind the VBC doing more Cormoran Strike, but I was not enthusiastic about the second book, The Silkworm, because the murder..."

Yes, the murder in "The Silkworm" was gross, I quite agree. Although I did enjoy the book once we got through that part!


message 14: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments Food for thought: one of J. K. Rowlings failings in the Harry Potter books was writing romantic relationships. Everyone I have discussed them with feels similarly - that the romance fell flat. How do you feel she does with the adult relationships in this book?


Bardbooks | 79 comments Enjoyed the books, really liked the TV series, too. Good casting, interesting adaptations from books to screenplays.


message 16: by Bardbooks (last edited Aug 03, 2018 07:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bardbooks | 79 comments KarenB wrote: "Food for thought: one of J. K. Rowlings failings in the Harry Potter books was writing romantic relationships. Everyone I have discussed them with feels similarly - that the romance fell flat. How ..."

The relationships are developed with intelligence and restraint. Rowling allows readers to draw inferences and react to interplay between Robin and her fiance, Robin and Cormoran, and among the trio, too. I'm fascinated by the exchanges, verbal and nonverbal. Can't say more 'til after the 10th. :-)


message 17: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "Food for thought: one of J. K. Rowlings failings in the Harry Potter books was writing romantic relationships. Everyone I have discussed them with feels similarly - that the romance fell flat. How ..."

Although I didn't have too many complaints about the romantic relationships in Harry Potter (these were teenagers, after all, aren't they supposed to be awkward?), I thought the relationships in "Cuckoo's Calling" were quite believable - one certainly comes to care for Robin and the pickle she's in, torn between two men. And Strike's magnetic pull in the direction of a woman who is absolutely wrong for him is all too lifelike!


Lenore | 1081 comments Merrily wrote: "...one certainly comes to care for Robin and the pickle she's in, torn between two men. ..."

In fact, what I like about the portrayal of Robin's situation is that she does not seem romantically attracted to Cormoran (at least, not in the books I've read so far), she just wants to work with him. She likes him and sees the opportunity to be a detective with him as the fulfillment of a lifelong (if somewhat repressed) fantasy. The pull is that Matthew doesn't seem to like that vision of Robin's life. It's not clear whether he doesn't trust Cormoran with Robin (or perhaps doesn't trust Robin with Cormoran) or whether he's just really tied into a more conventional view of what his wife would be like.

I think it is unrealistic to think that every non-familial relationship between a man and a woman, especially in the workplace, has to be sexual. But I also think that one's romantic partner, especially if relatively young and insecure, can be jealous of such a relationship, even knowing rationally that the other relationship isn't romantic.


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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Merrily wrote: "...one certainly comes to care for Robin and the pickle she's in, torn between two men. ..."

In fact, what I like about the portrayal of Robin's situation is that she does not seem..."


Very good analysis, Lenore, I quite agree. I would say (having read all the books up to this point) that by the end of the third book it's pretty clear that Strike has feelngs for Robin, although he's also too good a guy to try to interfere with her relationship with her fiance. The fiance, IMO, is rather a jerk and so it's hard not to want Robin to make a different choice, but Rowling isn't going down any obvious paths here.


Lenore | 1081 comments Yeah, for fear of spoiling, we can't talk about the events of the third book, but I kind of wonder how this marriage is going to work out after Matthew's actions in that book. And Strike really has no role in that, whatever his feelings.


message 21: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Lenore wrote: "Yeah, for fear of spoiling, we can't talk about the events of the third book, but I kind of wonder how this marriage is going to work out after Matthew's actions in that book. And Strike really has..."

Exactly!


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Turning to the characterisation of Strike.... he is a very much drawn in the style of the latter day anti-hero, who in this case is a damaged actual hero. I wonder if this anti hero ‘archetype’ of our time is, in part, a reaction to the cold calculating machine of ACD... Although we know Holmes is more complex and certainly less than perfect, he does not seem to struggle/work for his results as our hero here. Apologies if this is a well rehearsed discussion which has taken place elsewhere!


message 23: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "Turning to the characterisation of Strike.... he is a very much drawn in the style of the latter day anti-hero, who in this case is a damaged actual hero. I wonder if this anti hero ‘archetype’ of ..."

Pam, I know that some of the detective story historians view Holmes as the prototype of the damaged hero - he is a genius, of course, which Strike isn't (and wouldn't claim to be), but he is as you say Flawed in various ways (the severe depressions, the drugs, etc). Strike is in some ways a combination of Holmes and Watson, in that he's more an ordinary guy (not by any means stupid) and, like Watson, is dealing with war injuries both physical and mental.
I wonder too if any perceived difference in the "struggle" to solve a case is because we see Holmes through Watson's always -admiring eyes, whereas with Strike we're closer to him via an omniscient narrator. Watson makes Holmes' work look easy, but as Holmes once tells Russell, he often wasn't around for the boring slog parts!


message 24: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments Karen B., I just started Cuckoo’s Calling so I have no opinion about its romantic relationships. But I never saw anything lacking in those in the Harry Potter series. When you see the friction between the child Ron and the child Hermione you suspect something may develop. Same with Ginny’s infatuation for Harry. The romances are tame, especially when the children become teenagers but still seem to think only of missing. But I never thought they fell flat. Perhaps another examples of the phenomenon of are we reading the same book. I hope I like Cuckoo’s Calling anywhere near as much as I am attached to the HP series.


message 25: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments For missing, read kissing.


message 26: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Cathy wrote: "Karen B., I just started Cuckoo’s Calling so I have no opinion about its romantic relationships. But I never saw anything lacking in those in the Harry Potter series. When you see the friction betw..."

I agree, and I think the relationships developed in a realistic and believable way over the course of the series.
I really enjoy the Cormoran Strike series, hope you will as well.


message 27: by Linda (new)

Linda | 44 comments Yup! and remember the HP series happened a long time ago in the real world. And they were written for a young audience, which a responsible author treats as young. The twelve and thirteen year olds I worked with as readers paid very little attention to "romance" and might have been turned off. Looking forward to getting to NYC at some time to see the plays, which I have read, and are a lovely way to look "forward."

I think Holmes if Holmes and Mary is Mary and I never expect any "normal, conventional, or cliched" behavior from either of them. They neither think nor feel exactly like most of us. Thank goodness.


message 28: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Yup! and remember the HP series happened a long time ago in the real world. And they were written for a young audience, which a responsible author treats as young. The twelve and thirteen year olds..."

I'm dying to see the plays too. I get to New York fairly often so just have to get organized and make it happen.


message 29: by Carole (new)

Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments Cathy wrote: "Karen B., I just started Cuckoo’s Calling so I have no opinion about its romantic relationships. But I never saw anything lacking in those in the Harry Potter series. When you see the friction betw..."

The problem with the Ron and Hermione pairing is that JRK admitted to Emma Watson during an interview with her that Ron was based on a boy she'd had a crush on and he'd turned her down. Jo and Emma agreed that their marriage would take a lot of work and probably counselling.


message 30: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments Hmmm, the discussion about relationships in HP came up with my daughter and her group of friends, who all grew up with the HP series and most were fairly intense fans. They all felt, and they were comparable ages to the characters, that the relationships felt flat, that there was little to no chemistry between Ron & Hermione and between Harry & Ginny. But, it is in the reader's eye, I suppose!


message 31: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments My sons grew up with Harry Potter too and they and their friends are devoted fans. One, to my text about the question, said the relationships are fine in the books but develop less well in the movies. The other said he thought both pairings had their high and low points but that Ron and Hermione worked best because we saw it grow and we know them well.


message 32: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments I think the Cursed Child play does reflect some of the predictable tensions in the Ron-Hermione marriage. Only read it, haven’t seen it despite living in NYC.


message 33: by Erin (last edited Aug 06, 2018 08:43AM) (new) - added it

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "that there was little to no chemistry between Ron & Hermione and between Harry & Ginny. But, it is in the reader's eye, I suppose!"

Given how large the fanfiction community is for HP and the serious shippers for wildly different romantic pairings, I'd say your daughter and her friends are in good company, LOL. But then there are an equal number of fans who love the pairings as presented in the books. I think the variable opinions is one of the things that makes that series amazing. We can all disagree on the particulars, but still agree that the books are wonderful.

(ETA: Perhaps we should have selected Harry Potter as a discussion book! LOL)


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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
But back to Cormoran Strike... I haven't finished the book yet, but I am reminded more of classic noir characters than Holmes. Like Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon.


message 35: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
I agree with you, Erin, that Strike is more reminiscent of a noir protagonist. His approach to his craft, his shady connections, the types of clients he takes on, (as well as having a brilliant female assistant) all have a noirish feel. I like it a lot!


message 36: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
John wrote: "I agree with you, Erin, that Strike is more reminiscent of a noir protagonist. His approach to his craft, his shady connections, the types of clients he takes on, (as well as having a brilliant fem..."

The one thing we haven't had yet is a mysterious dame appearing in his office with a problem...


message 37: by MaryL (new)

MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments Where's the McGuffin?


message 38: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments I’m enjoying the quality of the writing. And I like Strike and Robin.


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Emily | 341 comments is Cormoran a real British name? I keep reading it as cormorant, like the bird, or Corcoran, like the captain of the Pinafore.


message 40: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "is Cormoran a real British name? I keep reading it as cormorant, like the bird, or Corcoran, like the captain of the Pinafore."

Emily, I believe in the book it says that Cormoran was named after a legendary giant in a Welsh folktale - so guess the name is Welsh. Am sure John will correct me if I'm wrong!


Lenore | 1081 comments Emily wrote: "is Cormoran a real British name? I keep reading it as cormorant, like the bird, or Corcoran, like the captain of the Pinafore."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormoran

Yes, indeed, he is a giant in Welsh folklore.


message 42: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments is Cormoran a real British name? I keep reading it as cormorant, like the bird, or Corcoran, like the captain of the Pinafore.

Yes! I have this vague impression of him as a large bird!

I agree with the noir-ish feel to the book. While it doesn't follow all the conventions, obviously, it certainly borrows heavily from that tradition - the seedy office, the shady connections he has, the female assistant and his, in spite of the stated description of him, attractiveness to women.


message 43: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "is Cormoran a real British name? I keep reading it as cormorant, like the bird, or Corcoran, like the captain of the Pinafore.

Yes! I have this vague impression of him as a large bird!

I agree w..."


Suspect that we all have had that brief brain flash of the bird, Karen. I wonder how she decided to choose "Cormoran" in the first place...
I thought she did a good job of introducing us to the continuing characters. Sometimes the first book in a series seems to carry the weight of too much "world-building," but Cormoran and Robin emerged fully fledged for me. And we know he's an outsider from the first, thanks to his rather bizarre family background.


message 44: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
Tomorrow (Friday) is our last non-spoilers day; no holds barred on Saturday! 😉


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Merrily wrote: "I meant to say earlier, I was delighted to find out yesterday that the fourth Cormoran Strike book, "Lethal White," is due out early in August - the 7th, I think. So those of us who have been follo..."

Merrily, I have Lethal White as coming out Sept. 18th here in the states. I keep a running list of when books are coming out and publish it on my blog when each month starts. I'm so looking forward to this one.


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments I was so pleased that I loved The Cuckoo's Calling when it came out. I wasn't sure what to expect from J.K. Rowling in this new undertaking. I've enjoyed all three immensely. However, I started to watch the TV series and stopped. I just wasn't crazy about the actor playing Cormoran. I know he's rough around the edges, and I agree with Erin that he is rather a noir character, but I felt that Tom Burke looked and acted a bit too brutish. I should maybe give the show another chance, but I hate when I have a character pictured a certain way and he is appears much different in a film or show.


message 47: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Merrily wrote: "I meant to say earlier, I was delighted to find out yesterday that the fourth Cormoran Strike book, "Lethal White," is due out early in August - the 7th, I think. So those of us who..."

Thanks for the correct date, Kathy. I'm so excited about that book! Love the series.


message 48: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "I was so pleased that I loved The Cuckoo's Calling when it came out. I wasn't sure what to expect from J.K. Rowling in this new undertaking. I've enjoyed all three immensely. However, I started to ..."

I think you might change your mind if you finished it, Kathy - by the end we see that Strike is anything but brutish -


message 49: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 176 comments I enjoyed Cuckoo’s Calling very much and am now reading Silkworm. But, as to the former, I didn’t recognize who the villain was in advance. What clues did I miss?


Antoinette | 186 comments I finished the book last night. Not bad enough to put down, not good enough to read the next in the series. Obviously the writing is excellent but a little formulaic for me- a noir detective, stereotypical female characters - model, secretary, whore. Glad others liked it. We can't all like the same thing.


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