Review: The Cuckoo's Calling
Title: The Cuckoo's Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)
Genre: Mystery, adult fiction
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
Mystery novels were one of the first chapter books I read as a kid. Cam Jansen, Nancy Drew, the Boxcar children, the list goes on. I think some of the first stories I ever wrote (when I was at the ripe old age of 6!) involved mysteries for my 6-year-old protagonist to solve. But somewhere along the way, I stopped reading them. I was beginning to find them formulaic, and I was frankly getting bored of trying to figure out who the thief/murderer was. This book reminded me of all the things I loved about mystery novels as a child, and I think I still have a soft spot for them.
The Cuckoo's Calling revolves around an investigation of a famous actress' supposed suicide. Her brother believes it was murder, even though the police have decided otherwise. He enlists the help of Detective Cormoran Strike, a rough, large, middle-aged man with some problems of his own to deal with.
What I really loved about this book is that it was similar to Tana French's In the Woods - the novel focused more on the characters than the actual mystery. There was Cormoran Strike, obviously, who had to deal with his complicated situation with his ex-wife. He's in a bad place financially, as well, and everything about his life seems to be hinging on this case. There's Robin, his clever and surprisingly resourceful temp, and a whole cast of colorful characters who have their own ideas about what happened to Lula. I really liked all of the characters, eccentricities and all. Robin and Strike had distinct voices, and it was interesting to see the case from both their points of view.
Although it's obviously written in a different style and for a different audience, I feel like the core of this novel is the same as that of the Harry Potter series - it's tightly plotted, with little details coming back when you least expect it, but the real joy is rooting for the characters and watching them grow. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I will be looking forward to more of Rowling's mystery novels.