Archive for September, 2013

Book Review- “The Cuckoo’s Calling”

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-callingYears and years ago, a friend introduced me to the Harry Potter series and as we were listening to the first three books on audio (this was before “Goblet of Fire” had been released) I was struck by a few things: the quality of the characters and the world, and the fact that each of the books was a mystery. Subsequent books in the series further demonstrated author J.K. Rowling’s knack for telling mystery tales. So I thought it would be pretty cool to see what she could do with an adult crime/mystery novel.

When the news broke that she had indeed written one under the psuedonym of Robert Galbraith I was excited, what made the announcement even cooler was the fact that the description of the book, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” made it sound like something I was going to read anyway. It was a P.I. novel and I’m a sucker for a good P.I. novel. Now having finished it I’m happy to report the book wasn’t just a good P.I. novel, it was a great one.

Of course the heart of any good Private Detective novel is it’s protagonist and with “The Cuckoo’s Calling” Rowling/Galbraith gives an interesting protagonist that you can root for in Cormoran Strike. When we meet Strike he’s haunted by several things. The first is the leg he lost while investigating a crime as a military police man in Afghanistan. The second is the dissolution of his relationship with his temperamental fiance Charlotte, and the third is the home he lost by ending things with her. On top of that his interactions with the world are also colored by the different and sometimes traumatic experiences he endured growing up with his mother. Those experience are part of some interesting character reveals later in the book though and I don’t want to spoil them.

So Strike is good hearted but emotionally battered and down on his luck when we first meet him. Our first meeting with him comes when he literally bumps into a character I really didn’t think I’d like very much, Robin, a temp worker assigned to be Strike’s secretary for a couple of weeks. At first Robin doesn’t seem like she belongs in a crime novel. It’s almost like she stepped out of a romantic comedy. She turns out to be a charismatic, caring, and capable secretary though. So by the end of the novel I was won over and enjoying Robin’s appearances; especially her interactions with her boss.

Robin comes into Strike’s life right as a gigantic case falls into his lap; A lawyer named John Bristow wants Strike to investigate the death??????????????????????????? of his sister a world famous supermodel named Lula Landry. Landry, who was hounded by paparazzi everywhere she went in London, died months earlier in a fall from the balcony of her flat. The police ruled that she jumped, but John Bristow believes that his sister was pushed and he wants Strike to find out the truth.

Strike takes the case and his investigation plunges him into the decadent, deceitful, and even dangerous world of the ultra wealthy. It also gives Rowling/Galbraith the chance to show off her flair for crafting interesting and believable characters like Landry’s family, a designer grieving her death, her drug addicted boy friend, her best friend and fellow supermodel, and an enigmatic and non-wealthy girl she met in counseling.

The most interesting character we meet and get to know though is Strike himself. Like I said earlier when we first met him he’s suffered quite a bit and he’s barely dealing with it. So watching him struggle with his woes and struggling to find justice for a woman who might have been murdered is fun. You get to cheer him on.

The insights into Strike and his investigation don’t come via the usual first person narration found in private detective novels, but that’s okay. Rowling’s prose is exciting and we still get enough of Strike’s perspective and some times we get Robin’s perspective as well.

In terms of pacing “The Cuckoo’s Calling” starts off a little slow as you wade into the investigation of Landry’s death with Strike. Once the investigation heats up though the book takes off like a rocket. It really was a struggle to put down at points, especially near the end. Best of it all, the ending suggests that Rowling/Galbraith has more plans for Cormoran Strike and I can’t wait to see what they are

So, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” J.K. Rowling (A.K.A. Rober Galbraith)’s first detective novel was a hell of a read. It was as much fan and intriguing as I hoped it would be. If you want to see what Harry Potter’s creator can do with a real world, grounded mystery or are just craving a great detective novel pick it up.

Categories: Book Review