Book: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling
Summary: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to just 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. - Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
I went into this book knowing that J.K. Rowling wrote it. I wish I hadn’t because then I could’ve looked at this with a different eye, but that’s the way the industry works. Once a famous author is ousted from their anonymity, the books he or she writes under that special pen name are always accompanied by the note that it’s actually written by [Insert Author Name Here]. That being said, even though I knew it was written by Rowling, I could see elements of her style in the writing. I’ve only read her Harry Potter novels so I couldn’t say for certain whether it’s her style as a writer or her style as an adult novel writer. Nevertheless, I tried to read it a subjectively as possible. After all, this is a mystery novel, not a young adult novel.
I can say for certain that this book is not for the newly initiated to the mystery genre. About two-thirds of the text is focusing on leading the reader around, trying to determine whether or not the death is a murder or a suicide. The answer isn’t truly confirmed until the last third, so I can see many readers becoming frustrated and giving up.
The answers come when they’re supposed to and they are placed in their proper location within the narrative. She doesn’t treat the reader like a fool, but she expects the reader to be patient. The pay off does come, but it takes a long while to get to it. Rowling is a self-described character writer and this time is no different. She spends a lot of time on the characters, giving them their backstory and helping you to get into their psyche. All of the characters are three-dimensional and memorable, even the minor characters. They all serve a purpose.
She spends time building up the suspense and the “what ifs”, then gives a swift delivery that makes all of the waiting worth it. Everything is tied up together nicely so that it doesn’t feel like there are any loose ends.
Overall, it’s a good book, but I wouldn’t advise giving it to first-time mystery readers. If you’re not patient, you won’t make it through this book.
I give The Cuckoo’s Calling an A-.
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