Harry Potter and the Dead Supermodel
While I was reading it, though, it started to remind me of some other book I'd read once. There's this scarred hero (Cormoran Strike, who lost half a leg in Afghanistan) with famous parents (Jonny Rokeby, a rock star, and Leda, a super-groupie), who is constantly meeting people who seem to know all about him, and knew his parents better than he did. He has a terrible childhood, and after his mother dies he goes to live with his aunt and uncle. Now he's doing something he enjoys (working as a private detective), but his female sidekick (his secretary Robin) sometimes seems smarter and more efficient than he is. There's no evil overlord in this book, but Strike does have a fiancee who enjoys ruining his life…
I don't mean to criticize Rowling here, or to say that she's writing the same book over again, because she very much isn't. But I do think it's interesting the way writers reach for the same themes again and again.
Like the Harry Potter books, The Cuckoo's Calling uses familiar tropes, in this case the conventions of the detective novel. But unlike fantasy, the detective novel relies on these tropes -- the detective, the client, the dead body -- and what's important is what you do with them.
It's here that Galbraith/Rowling shines. Strike, thankfully, is neither whiny nor rude (unless, of course, he needs to be). He's big, furry, not in great shape, but he works carefully, competently, using skills he learned in the army. Charlotte, his fiancee, has just thrown him out of her house, and for the present he's camping in his office. Robin is about to get married and is looking for a good-paying job while she temps for Strike, but she can't help getting caught up in the work he gives her. Together they look into the death of Lula, a supermodel, who either fell or was pushed off her balcony.
Rowling clearly knows a lot about the milieu of the very rich, and gives her wealthy characters authentic-sounding brand names and drugs and clothes -- and since I'm unlikely to ever join this group, I felt a certain shallow fascination reading about them. (With one exception -- "Deeby Macc" is a pretty lame name for a rap star.) She also seems to know a bit about being poor … but both the rich and poor characters feel just a tad stereotyped, with none of the well-roundedness of Strike and Robin. When Rowling dislikes a character, she really lets you know about it.
I have to say that I'm looking forward to the next book, with much more enthusiasm than I ever felt for the Potter novels. And I'm pretty sure there will be a next book -- after all, we haven't even met Volde -- um, Charlotte yet.