I read in last week’s Economist about “a retired civil engineer” in India, Chewang Norphel, who has “built a dozen artificial glaciers.” Natural glaciers there are disappearing or receding, so they no longer provide annual melt water farmers relied on in spring. The report notes that glaciologists (a cool job title, I think) might quibble that what Mr. Norphel is making is not technically a glacier. But it’s still very good work, well received by those it impacts.
Which brings me to the book I read this week, The Cuckoo’s Calling. Until two weeks ago it was touted as a debut detective novel by Robert Galbraith. A very good debut, although not a very big seller. Now of course the world knows that J.K. Rowling wrote it, so it’s not technically a debut. But it’s still very good work, and even before its famous author was outed, well received.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bookconscious regulars know I’ve been on a bit of a spy/detective kick lately. Also Teen the Younger got me into watching Elementary, with Lucy Liu as our favorite Watson ever. The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces the detecting duo of Cormoran Strike, a former Army Special Investigator, and Robin Ellacott, who temps in his office, fulfilling her secret girlhood dream of solving mysteries. I loved them both and could see them as I read. I think they’re a good team — not as funny as Sherlock and Watson, but complementary.
The story is also very good, with lots of social commentary woven wittily and seamlessly into the story, à la Jane Austen (or perhaps Jonathan Franzen). And a number of suspects, so that I wasn’t exactly sure who’d committed the crime right up until Strike revealed it (the only thing I didn’t love – the scene where he explains the crime is a bit unbelievable). Vivid descriptions really brought the streets, flats, offices, pubs and shops of London to life — again I could picture every scene. I especially got a kick out of the designer Guy Somé and his studio.
The supporting characters were as interesting and carefully wrought as Strike and Robin, and Galbraith/Rowling got each person’s tics and quirks down, so her hero could note them as he questioned and observed. That kind of detail made the detective work a pleasure to follow. References to everything from pop culture to Latin literature gave the story texture as well. All the way around, this was a very entertaining, well written book.
Which I would have found fun and well done regardless of who wrote it. But I may not have heard about it had the news not broken about it’s real authorship. Debut or not, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Just as the farmers in Kashmir are enjoying the annual cycle of melt water irrigating their fields, regardless of whether the glaciers are brand new man-made creations or ancient ice.