Books read in May
May is the month of mysteries. (I’m so good at alliteration.) 😛
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
This crime fiction novel is the introduction of private detective Cormoran Strike. Every fictional private eye seems to need an unusual name. In this case, his name reminds me of sea-birds. There is nothing bird-like about Mr Strike though. He’s an ex-military man, big and bearish. He’s also a man of few words – and so (thankfully) not inclined to give long monologues – but his eyes are open. Strike has a way of getting people to tell him more than they think they know.
And, of course, every private detective needs a dependable, plain sidekick as a foil. In this case, it is the efficient, loyal and romantic Robin. (No, the connection of her name to that of Batman’s steady sidekick was not missed.)
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a book about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Quite literally. It is also a book about race and what it really means. The victim whose death is being examined, Lula Landry, was of mixed racial descent. As a child she was adopted by a white family, leaving her feeling like the cuckoo of the title.
When she was found dead on the street, the police decided that it was suicide, that she had jumped from her balcony. However, her adoptive brother believes that she was pushed. That it had been murder. And now Strike will have to prove it. It will be dangerous though, because not everyone will like what he finds out about Lula’s past.
The Cuckoo’s Calling has refreshingly few stereotypes. There are no geniuses, no detective with a huge ego and no dramatic reveal. While reading it I thought I could see the red herrings. Several times I thought I knew where the plot was going. But I didn’t.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Note that the swearword meter for this book is quite high. These military guys don’t mince words.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
So, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I think I read about it on tumblr or somewhere and decided to give it a go. It was probably a good thing I didn’t know it was a quite bit of horror story because then I wouldn’t have read it. My best friend could tell you in stunning detail how much I do not like horror stories. I don’t have anything against their existence, they just give me nightmares.
Riggs’s debut novel tells the story of Jake, who goes looking for the Welsh children’s home in which in his Polish grandfather lived after evacuation during World War II. He doesn’t have much to go on. Just a letter, a name and some photographs of children doing impossible things, like levitating or lifting objects much to heavy for an adult, let alone a child, to lift. He needs to do this to heal the psychological scars he incurred – manifesting in panic attacks and nightmares – at the violent death of his grandfather.
The beginning reminded me of nothing so much as the first X-Men movie. Specifically the first bit of the first movie, with the concentration camp and the rain. Apart from the horror/thriller part, this book is hard to pin down in a genre. It has some magical realism, some time travelling, some history lesson, some mystery, some travel journal… and then uses genuine vintage photographs as illustrations.
I didn’t like the things Jake found on the little Welsh island. I was curled into a ball in the corner of my bed and I still needed to know what happened next. And now I will probably do it to myself all over again to read the second one. Mostly I was thinking “thanks for providing me with a picture of the gross things. That’s just fuel for my over-active imagination”.
A star off for scaring me (unfair and biased, I know):
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐