Cuckoo's Calling (A Cormoran Strike Novel), The

Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling
A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.


Reviewed: 2015-01-30

I will admit to resisting reading this for a while, partially because I loved Harry Potter (the magic, the whimsy, the coming-of-age narrative), partially because I think Adults are Boring, and partially because I was...less than impressed by The Casual Vacancy. 


...I really, really, really enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling.

I'm not a reader of mysteries or thrillers, I hardly read books with male protagonists, nor do I particularly enjoy adult fiction, but I DEVOURED The Cuckoo's Calling. I was getting increasingly angry at the clock for telling me to go to bed when all I wanted to do was read another chapter, and another, and another...

It's funny; the Britishness of The Casual Vacancy was one of the few aspects of said novel I actually enjoyed, but it was a bit of a detriment even for this American Anglophile. (Plus the pacing was uneven.) The Casual Vacancy possessed a lot of themes I think J.K. Rowling explores in her work (whether consciously or subconsciously): class, prejudice, politics, along with her Austen-like ability to sketch wonderful character portraits and Dickensian preoccupation with social justice. I think there's actually a seed of greatness in The Casual Vacancy, but unlike Harry Potter, and unlike the Cormoran Strike books, it was...a slog.

In many ways, the reason I think The Cuckoo's Calling worked better for me than The Casual Vacancy was because of its mystery element. The first few Harry Potter novels are, at their heart, fantastic mystery novels. (The Prisoner of Azkaban remains one of the best examples.) J.K. Rowling is great at creating plausible red herrings, and I enjoyed trying to figure out the whodunnit. 

Of course, knowing Galbraith's identity did colour how I read this book. The observations and portraits of celebrity and fame felt lived and true, and I couldn't help but think of how much Rowling's experience must have affected the writing. Yet, strip out all the Rowling hallmarks (class, prejudice, character portraits, etc.) and you're still left with an enjoyable story about a sympathetic down-and-out, but NOT hardboiled veteran PI (with a prosthetic leg!) and his competent, enthusiastic, and warm female assistant trying to solve the murder of a mixed-race model. Characters are definitely Rowling's strength, and I care enough about both Cormoran and Robin to continue reading.

Yep, Rowling's put herself back on my auto-buy list.


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