Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (The Casual Vacancy)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
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, the legendary 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.
I haven’t had the greatest luck with adult fiction this year, but it seems like I enjoy mysteries – at least, when they’re really popular and praised, like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and the latest series from the amazing J.K. Rowling, written under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith (if you didn’t hear about all the drama surrounding the news that she had a new, unknown book last year, then you must have been taking a break from reading newspapers or checking out the internet for a few months).
The beginning of this book took me a while to read, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested. I started this book in the midst of school beginning and feeling sick and such, so I really didn’t have that much time to read this. As a result, things could feel a bit disjointed and I sometimes had trouble remembering who some of the names referred to simply because there were a lot of names. The fact that I was able to remain interested, especially since adult books take me a lot longer to read in general, is a testament to how interested I was in this book.
The mystery of this book revolves around a supermodel who supposedly committed suicide – but of course there’s more to it than that. Outside of the mystery, however, there’s also the story of the main character, Cormoran Strike, a man who’s a bit down on his luck and definitely needs this case in his life. Robin, his new secretary who has her own stuff going on – her love of detecting warring with her need to get a “proper” job for her and her new fiancé – also gets some chapters and narration of her own (it’s all in third person, so it’s not too jarring to skip around) and leaves me wanting to learn more about her, as well as Strike.
Oops, I started talking about the characters in the last section – oh well. Like I was saying, I was interested in the two main characters, but there’s a whole cast of suspects to also get my attention. As many come to expect from a Rowling book, there are characters who speak with written dialects that can be a little difficult to decipher, but it really doesn’t trip you up that much and it adds authenticity to the various voices of all these characters. Some characters are entertaining, some are maddening, and some are simply confusing – there are plenty of characters to suspect from the very beginning, and it was interesting to see how some came to life the more we learned about them.
This is a book that takes place in London that’s written by a British author, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the setting is a matter-of-fact inclusion. When you read a book written by an American author taking place outside of America, the setting can become a character of its own and can feature prominently in the story, but with this book, the setting was simply there. It felt like it could be taking place in any major American city like New York City or something, with some specific names thrown in. Maybe that sounds like I’m belittling the setting, but I’m really not – it’s interesting to see new places from the eyes of the residents rather than travellers, if that makes sense.
The mystery unfurls slowly at the beginning and then really ramps up at the end. Even though this book took me awhile to read, I was turning the pages quickly in order to figure out the mystery, and my pace picked up even more when I was near the end and finding out who the culprit was and how they did it. I’d like to say that I figured out who did it, but I had no idea and was quite shocked when it was finally revealed, but not because it made no sense.
I debated whether I should even include this category, but I figured I should talk about it even if it’s just to say that there really isn’t any romance. Robin has a fiancé and Strike has an off-on girlfriend who is definitely off at the beginning of the book (their latest fight leads to an awkward first meeting for Strike and Robin), but romance definitely isn’t at the forefront in the slightest. You do wonder whether something might develop between Robin and Strike in the future, but for now there isn’t much romance to be found if that’s what you like in your mysteries. Personally, I think there was plenty else going on to keep me from missing any romance.
As I already said, there’s a lot going on at the end to keep you madly turning the pages in order to figure out whodunit. All of the clues start piling up quickly and they all lead to the scene where we discover who did it and get all of the explanation. Some people might not like the scene since it involves a lot of Strike talking and explaining everything, but I was so interested to know what had happened that I didn’t even think of it as info-dumping or anything of the sort.
If you haven’t figured it out already, I really enjoyed this book. It took me a while to read because I was busy and I tend to read adult books slower, but it’s made it clear that I will read anything that Rowling writes and that adult mysteries may be more my thing than “literary fiction” or whatever the adult equivalent of contemporary is (is it just adult contemporary? or do I have to be a little pretentious and call it “literary fiction”? these are the things that I ponder at night). I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series, which luckily for me is already out!