Book column: “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
So I’m a bit slow on the uptake for this one, but I still felt it was more than worth picking up and reviewing. Also, I’ve been looking for an excuse to check this out, and writing it into this week’s column seemed like the perfect excuse.
That read would be “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith, aka the wonderful and magical J.K. Rowling, who published under this pseudonym to get honest reviews without the enormous shadow of the “Harry Potter” franchise looming over it, for better or worse.
Even with the knowledge that this novel had been written by the woman who profoundly influenced my childhood, I tried to remain as objective as possible, which actually wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought it would be. The writing style, tone and theme of the book are different enough from Harry Potter that it wasn’t a stretch to put its famous author out of my head and read it with as little bias as possible.
“The Cuckoo’s Calling” will definitely not disappoint fans of thriller or mystery genres. The novel centers around private detective Cormoran Strike, who is hired by the brother of famous model Lula Landry to investigate Landry’s suicide, in which she allegedly threw herself from her apartment balcony. Though the press and police have since written it off as such, the brother is convinced of foul play and offers to pay the struggling Strike double his usual fee to look into the death of his sister.
Strike and his temporary secretary Robin, who has always secretly dreamed of being a detective, comb through a variety of witnesses and personal contacts of the supermodel in order to investigate her life and her state of mind before her fall. The farther they go into the case, the more convoluted the connections become, until it is almost impossible to believe it could have been a suicide.
From a junkie, high-profile boyfriend to a temperamental, overprotective designer friend, to a destructively indulgent adoptive mother, Landry’s life is riddled with suspicious, shady characters Strike and Robin pick through to find the truth before finally culminating in a shocking and violent confrontation with a psychotic murderer.
While the novel is very compelling, it is not exactly groundbreaking in the detective and mystery genre. Nothing new immediately stands out, and at first glance, the novel is extremely straightforward in its goals and plot. It actually gets a bit slow, and there were several parts where I got frustrated with the lack of progress in getting the case solved.
Despite this, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” was actually quite compelling. All of the characters are incredibly interesting and detailed. Even the most minor characters have intricate, clear descriptions in order to give readers an idea of what each suspect and acquaintance is like, giving them the chance to guess who the killer is without the author having to drop such obvious hints as she practically hand holds us to the correct conclusion.
Each aspect of the victim’s life is carefully detailed and considered, from a variety of social classes and races. It is also interesting to note Strike and Robin are not merely “looking into” the case—they become immersed and active participants within it. The end of the novel leaves it open for a sequel, so hopefully we see more of the pair going after more cases in the future.
While I did enjoy this novel, I wish that I had been able to read it before Rowling was prematurely revealed to be the author. It would have been nice to immerse myself in it without any expectations at all. However, if it hadn’t been revealed to be Rowling’s work, would it have even been on anyone’s radar?
Despite being generally well received by critics, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” wasn’t doing particularly well before its famous author was revealed. It is extremely difficult for new authors to get their work out there, no matter how well done, so it very well could have stayed low-profile if Rowling hadn’t been the author. However, it did get out, and now it is on everyone’s radar, so the point is moot, and I was more than happy to follow Rowling on yet another literary adventure.
Have a book you want to see reviewed? Know a great (or terrible) read? Email Rachel Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org!