The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith 2

published 2013  part 4 chapter 7

[investigator Strike is questioning a supermodel, but she is more interested in his own background]
‘And your mum,’ she said, unfazed, blowing smoke out of the corner of her mouth. ‘I mean, she’s just, like, a legend. You know how Baz Carmichael did a whole collection two seasons back called “Supergroupie”, and it was like, Bebe Buell and your mum were the whole inspiration? Maxi skirts and buttonless shirts and boots?’

‘I didn’t,’ said Strike.

‘Oh, it was, like – you know that great quote about Ossie Clark dresses, how men liked them because they could just, like, open them up really easily and fuck the girls? That’s, like, your mum’s whole era.’ She shook her hair out of her eyes again and gazed at him, not with the chilling and offensive appraisal of Tansy Bestigui, but in what seemed to be frank and open wonder. It was difficult for him to decide whether she was sincere, or performing her own character; her beauty got in the way, like a thick cobweb through which it was difficult to see her clearly.

observations: So first of all – has she made up that quote about Ossie Clark dresses? It’s a great, funny line, but doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else. On the other hand, actress Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) wore vintage Ossie to the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie, and suffered a wardrobe malfunction when bad weather blew the dress open – is the author thinking of that? Or perhaps JKR had a dress of her own – she’s the right age.

Famously, this book is actually by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and was published under a false name. Maybe it was a publicity stunt, but then she doesn't need the money, and might really want to know how she would do without her name on the front cover. But perhaps her publishers then did the leaking because they wanted to sell more copies…

As we said in a blog entry on the book earlier this week, it’s a really good honest detective story, with some excellent clueing, such as the reason for Lula’s brief meeting with Rochelle. Some characters are brought in and abandoned (the book is dedicated to ‘the real Deeby’ so it’s odd that he doesn’t live on the page) while others, like the fashion designer or the description of a model's beauty above, are extremely well done. The names, as you would expect from the creator of Gilderoy Lockhart, Nymphadora Tonks and Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank, are wonderful: the hero is Cormoran Strike, just for starters. And Galbraith/Rowling has clever observations:

Robin was laughing in the slightly grudging manner of a woman who is entertained, but who wishes, nevertheless, to make it clear that the goal is well defended.

The book is set at a very specific time – just before the UK election in May 2010 – and is full of computers, mobile phones and phone hacking, but still has an old-fashioned feel. Characters pound the streets of a very real London, visiting beautifully-described pubs; the temp turns up with her A-Z at the tiny office at the top of the stairs, and is soon fiddling with the acro clips – it all sounds like the 1970s in London. Like the dress.

The picture above is of a very real Ossie Clark dress, mine, though I would certainly dissociate myself from the quotation, as would the person wearing it in the photo.


  1. Moira - Interesting about that comment. Thanks for exploring it a little more. It's good to hear too that this is a solid detective story.

    1. Thanks Margot - I liked it very much. And I would say from reading it that JKR is a big detective story fan - she knows her stuff...

  2. Both of the excerpts (here and in the previous post) and the characters -- especially Strike -- sound interesting, so I am sure I will get to this book sometime. Glad you read it and featured it, otherwise I would have been skeptical.

    1. Thanks Tracy, and yes Strike is an excellent character. I'm really hoping there is going to be a series of books featuring him. He reminds me a little of Jackson Brodie in Kate Atkinson's books - I really like him, too.

  3. It's a terrific read, gripping, original and funny.

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