So I was given this book by my friends for my birthday in a collection of books. This was supposed to be a ‘joke’ book, because they just picked it up from a collection of free books, it was old looking, and the blurb mentioned an orgy, so they thought it was a steamy romance, a genre I told them I didn’t want. So when I finally decided to start reading it, I was pleasantly surprised, it was actually pretty good. Not only was it not romance (I’m not entirely convinced there was an ‘orgy’ at all), but it was a decent book with several plotlines which were all interesting and engaging.
This is my first foray into Agatha Christie and Poirot, I have never read any of her work, or watched any of the countless TV shows based on it. So this was quite exciting to see what this classic mystery author had in store for me.
To wrap up my discussion of The Cuckoo’s Calling I’ll first take a look at the epilogue, and then discuss the book as a whole.
Our final quote this time from Horace’s Odes, ‘Nothing is an unmixed blessing’. So Horace is saying everything is a mixed blessing? I think that is true, you can see good and bad in every situation. And it seems rather true of what’s been happening in this book.
Well this part is where shit hits the fan and things get wonderfully interesting. We don’t yet find out the murderer but so much happens as we finally get to meet Guy, Lula’s biological mother, we go to Lula’s flat, we meet Deeby Mac and Ciara, and there’s another murder! After a reasonably subdued first three parts, this is certainly where the excitement builds in great bounds before the climax which is sure to come in the finale.
So this has been a really long time coming! But I’ve finally got around to reading this again, and with good timing, since the sequel, The Silkworm has just come out. A quick recap on what’s happened so far, a murder (or was it suicide) of Lula Landry, a world famous model, who was adopted into a rich white family, and now her brother is asking ex-military detective Coroman Strike to investigate. Meanwhile Robin has been asked to be his assistant.
Again we start with another quote: “No stranger to trouble myself, I am learning to care for the unhappy.” I always wonder how much analysis or thought should be given to these little quotes, did JK purposely put this one here, or did she just like this one, or wasn’t it her at all?
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay is an Australian Classic, and is a perfect example of a murder mystery, or is it? I say that because, we never really find out whether or not anyone has been murdered. Perhaps they just stumbled off a cliff and died because of that, there may not have been foul play at all. And I think the open ending of the book adds to the mystery and intrigue surrounding the novel. Add to that Lindsay’s reluctance at confirming that it is a complete work of fiction, or whether or not parts are based on fact. Because it can feel, in the way she has written it, that perhaps there is some element of truth here, that maybe this is real. And if so, that just adds to our curiosity and appetite to find out what happens. And when we don’t find out, that makes us hungry for answers, so we discuss with others and that gets the word out about the book. It’s quite clever actually, because then more people will buy the book, and then more will want to discuss it, and that is what a successful book is all about.
So we start three months after the prologue (bizarrely, it has been over three months since I posted about the prologue, make of that as you will). Again we start with a little quote, a quite interesting one, about the most unfortunate man, in ill-turns of fortune, being one who has been happy, a bit like the last one also about happiness and fortune. I really wonder where on Earth she gets these from, or does someone else find them? And I really question, how relevant they are to the story about to unfold.
Just like in The Casual Vacancy, she has decided to split up each part into several smaller ‘chapters’. And we start off this one with a lovely proposal story of Robin Ellacott and her boyfriend Matthew. It’s hard to know what connection this has with the wider story yet. But she certainly has had an almost fairytale proposal, and now she’s heading off to be a temp secretary, and seemingly nothing can dampen her mood. I have to say London sounds confusing. But as we enter the building, where she narrowly misses this strikingly beautiful woman, it soon becomes clear how this could all relate. She’s working with a private detective! Who goes by the name of C. B. Strike.
I actually share Robin’s little surge of excitement, being a private detective sounds so interesting and intriguing. I guess my love for Sherlock Holmes boosts this notion, but I’m sure being a detective is not as interesting, nor glamorous as it sounds. Especially when as a private detective all you’ll normally investigate would be wandering partners, perhaps the odd crime, or tail someone to see if they’re criminal or something. And following someone would hardly be any fun, considering you’ll just be sitting there for hours. But this is Robin’s secret ambition, and now, after her magical proposal, she is given a chance to live out this ambition, even if only for a week. Until tragedy strikes (oh gosh, that’s his name), when Strike (presumably) barrels out of the office, and knocks Robin sky high. We’re not going to be seeing another death are we?
And then we are at the second chapter, and with it a slight shift in perspective. This is certainly quite reminiscent of The Casual Vacancy. Luckily Strike manages to grab Robin before anything serious happens, in the process molesting her by grabbing her boob. Not surprisingly the other inhabitants of this building, a graphics designer and a manager of a bar, call out to investigate, but Strike doesn’t answer them at all, instead leading Robin inside his office. It seems Strike has been injured himself, but by what, or more importantly who? I do love the contrast between Robin and Strike, she is on top of the world with joy, her life seemingly perfect, while his is heading towards catastrophe, a financial one and a personal one. He was not expecting a replacement for the last temp, since he dismissed the last one because he could not afford her any longer, and having left his partner, Charlotte. Who we now know to be the woman Robin nearly collided with. It seems that Strike and Charlotte have had a difficult relationship, and now he’s decided it’s over, once and for all.
Despite not really wanting nor needing her here, Strike gives her the basic secretarial duties of answering the phone, opening letters and clearing up. I don’t know why he just didn’t say, sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding and you should leave since I can’t pay you at all. I guess he feels sorry for nearly killing her, and wants to make her coming her at least ‘worthwhile’. But what’s worse is that Robin is just about to see for herself how desperate his situation is with the final notices and lack of actual work related communication. I wonder if she’ll stay, or even come back tomorrow.
Quite surprisingly, for Strike especially, Robin comes to inform him that there’s a client waiting to see him. He tells her to give him a few minutes (calling her Sandra for some reason) before desperately trying to make himself look presentable and hide his various belongings which he managed to take from Charlotte’s home. This could be the case he needs to stay afloat, as long as the client is the paying type. I’m sort of reminded here of the sad truth that many people feel that some jobs aren’t worth repayment, like artists, writers, photographers, IT, and apparently detectives. People seem to think that these things are more like ‘hobbies’ so therefore they don’t require payment, which is pathetic.
Anyway, so we are introduced to the client, and it is someone who is definitely going to pay. It is a wealthy man, Mr Bristow, even his name sounds wealthy. Can Strike seriously tell if he is myopic simply by the thickness of his glasses, cause that seems awfully observant. Also Strike’s first name is Cormoran, which is quite unusual, but cool, she really does make up/find good names. And oops, he called her Sandra again, and worse, where is she going to get the refreshments from? And it’s quite sad that Strike’s only client, has no friends, I guess Strike is almost a friend, but not in the right way, just someone she actually talks to.
And Mr Bristow reveals why on earth he is here. Well, why he chose Strike for this, it seems that Strike knew Mr Bristow’s brother, in fact they were really good friends. But Charlie Bristow died in an accident. And his teacher who informed them is most certainly heartless, trying to make his death a point to follow rules and instructions, like really, not the right time lady. So Mr Bristow noticed Strike’s name when searching for a detective, so he chose him. And now we come to what he wants Strike to investigate. Lula Landry’s death. Landry was Bristow’s brother, adopted just like him. Robin enters again with her refreshments she found from somewhere, and I can see that Strike is going to be good at his job, since he immediately gets her to search for some evidence that Landry was actually adopted. Strike isn’t the trusting type, so he wants to make sure there’s something real behind Bristow’s story. And it seems that Landry, a model, is the woman our prologue was about, so this is how Strike is connected. I know this is a mystery, but I honestly struggle to imagine that this will take the rest of the book to solve, but I’m excited.
It seems Bristow is convinced that Landry did not kill herself, and his clutched at evidence he has found. Robin reenters confirming Bristow’s story, and doing a fine job, maybe she’ll be of use to Strike, potentially turning this into a full time thing. Strike is sceptical of Bristow’s notion of what happened, and even feels immoral in taking his money, despite his need of it. Bristow was going to pay double, but it doesn’t look promising now. And Strike is a decorated military detective, I didn’t realise they had investigation branches in the military.
Switching to Robin’s perspective, we see that Bristow’s girlfriend, Alison, doesn’t really want Bristow to continue with this obsession, she thinks it’s foolish. I do like that Robin keeps up the charade very well, keeping her composure, and praising Strike, even though she has no reason to. While Strike has placated Bristow enough to make him stay, Strike’s financial needs, as well as his love of ‘justice’ changing his mind. So Strike gets Bristow to recount the day’s events, and it seems that Landry’s boyfriend, Duffield could be a prime suspect, they were arguing, and his alibi is from a drug dealer. Surprising that they take that evidence, but don’t think the other evidence from the flatmate is credible enough. Or maybe the rapper, Deeby Mac, perhaps he got there early?
Unfortunately Bristow has to leave, and now it’s time for Strike to do some digging of his own. Not before Bristow hands over some cash and a considerable check for a month’s advance. Bristow’s girlfriend is not too pleased about the outcome, perhaps she killed Landry, so doesn’t want an investigation? Once they leave Robin shows Strike a death letter he has received, it seems that being a PI means you’ll get a few of those, but he seems unconcerned. Robin was so concerned with it she put in a plastic pocket, as if it were evidence, gosh, she really wants to be a detective.
But Strike isn’t getting to work now, he’s gone to the pub. I guess he needed some time to process all that had happened, especially with Charlotte. And now he is technically homeless, after he moved in with her to ‘recuperate’. From what I wonder, the military service (we find out moments later he has a prosthetic leg – reminds me of Watson in BBC’s Sherlock a little)? Apparently she had walked out three times before, but now, because he did it, it was completely different, unfortunately, she has a taste for revenge, so this will not be an amicable separation. Even at the bar he actually does some work ringing an actual police detective to get in touch with Wardle, one of the detectives we met earlier. Strike is interesting, he calls another friend for some leverage on a ‘copper’, I guess to get Wardle to cooperate? So he arranges a meet next week to exchange information. He then proceeds to waste time until Robin leaves, so he can go back and sleep.
I have to say I really like Robin, she proceeds to inform everyone about her engagement, and then has an hour lunch break and buys ‘replacement biscuits’, and actually has a tally for the petty cash box. She is taking this pretty seriously, too bad it’s temporary, though I doubt that’ll stick, she’ll hang around. She even signs a confidentiality agreement that she finds, fills out a time sheet! And she’s pretty quick too, putting together the pieces of Strike’s failed relationship. That pneumatic drill is being referenced so many times!
I do like that Rowling has no fear or aversion to swear words, again proving she is not just an author for kids. As Strike returns, this experience has been ‘soldierly’ to him, so he has no complaints about his rough sleeping. He notices that Robin has tidied up well, and even decides to put in the exact amount he owed in the petty cash box. Then he creates the Lula Landry file. Perhaps the murderer is this Runner, but who is he? But there was a window when the doorman left, so, someone could have come in. Because surely this is not the first mystery novel with a suicide in it?
It seems Charlotte, at least to Strike, faked a pregnancy, which is a strange thing to do. But Strike is sure, Charlotte has a penchant for lies, and seems desperate to stay with Strike, but at the same time desperate for chaos and drama. While Strike, he has friends who would welcome him with open arms, but instead, he choose to stay in his office, alone. He doesn’t want to have to confront and recount the details of the events with others, which is fair enough I guess.
And that’s the end of part 1! I quite like it already!