I don’t generally listen to audiobooks. I haven’t enjoyed them since I was a kid listening to A Series of Unfortunate Events and Artemis Fowl. I often find it difficult to focus on the story, too distracted by the slow pace, my hang-ups with the narrator’s voice and inflections interfering with the plot.
Circumstances forced my hand, so I listened to samples of more than a dozen audiobooks before settling in to listen to the entirety of The Cuckoo’s Calling. I thought a mystery would be easiest for me to follow and exciting enough to keep me listening.
It’s nigh impossible to separate my opinion of the text itself from the narration so I will not attempt to do so.
I enjoy a good mystery and thriller, being particularly fond of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad. I found the pacing of The Cuckoo’s Calling to be quite slow, the narrative taking the reader step-by-step through the investigative process and into Robin and Strike’s personal lives. While the story was interesting enough I did wish it would give me more of one and less of the other as the focus seemed unnecessarily divided.
I did enjoy the characterizations of Robin, Strike and the supporting cast. The narrator’s efforts to do the voices for all characters was appreciated, if unequal at times. I will confess for the entire book I believed that Strike’s first name was ‘Cormorant’ like the bird rather than ‘Cormoran’. Auditory perception really makes a huge difference to the way you experience a story. I’ll never know if I would have viewed characters differently were it not for the inflections of the narrator’s voice. Would I have been able to guess the outcome of the investigation? Would I have found characters more or less sympathetic?
As it was, I didn’t guess the outcome until the plot was rounding its final corner. By then I was so relieved to be through so many hours of narration I would have accepted any ending. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book.
While I found Cormoran Strike to be quite off-putting at times, he was a thorough private eye. He found and interviewed people I wouldn’t have considered and was willing to re-evaluate his stance on people when necessary. I liked Robin, though I found her passive-aggressive attitude both frustrating and funny. I’m interested to see the evolution of their personalities and working relationship as the series continues.
I think the most unrealistic thing about the book for me was people just agreeing to cooperate and speak with Strike at all. He’s not a police officer, just a private citizen who could be lying to them for all they know. Nobody ever asks for any identification nor do they call the man who paid for the inquiry to verify his identity. I thought it was absolutely bizarre and it certainly got me thinking on tangents when I should have been paying attention to the plot.
I found it frustrating that Strike would go over the same information with the same people at times. While a legitimate investigative tactic, it can make for a tiring chapter. I wished that Strike’s thought process was more available to the reader so that his investigative process would be shown less.
I did like that the story touched on the paparazzi and the way that celebrities in certain countries are hounded. It’s interesting to wonder if that subject was chosen because of the author’s own experience with them. Certainly not a topic I expected but I was glad it was brought up by quite a few characters.
While I will be reading the next book in the series, the format is still in question. Regardless, I hope that I warm to Strike and become sharp enough to deduce the ending with more than a chapter to spare.
Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? Do you listen to (and enjoy) audiobooks? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!