“Strike had felt the living woman behind the words she had written to friends; he had heard her voice on a telephone held to his ear; but now, looking down on the last thing she had ever seen in her life, he felt strangely close to her. The truth was coming slowly into focus out of the mass of disconnected detail.”
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books, April 2013
455 pages (hardcover)
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.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that The Cuckoo’s Calling only made its way onto my radar after the news of its true authorship broke.
I should mention that I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter. I was in high school when the first book was published, in college when the series started really catching on, and had graduated by the time the final book was released and I finally read the series in one fell swoop. YA isn’t what I normally pick up… but I couldn’t help but love the world J.K. Rowling created.
I eagerly awaited The Casual Vacancy, even after the summary was released and it didn’t sound at all like something I’d be interested in. And while there was a lot in it I didn’t care for, and it lacked the child-like excitement of Harry Potter, I appreciated Rowling’s continuing talent for creating another sweeping stage filled with characters that felt real.
So when the story broke about her pseudonymous crime story, I was thrilled to see what she’d done in this genre.
It doesn’t feel like a typical mystery novel, though. And maybe literary isn’t a great descriptor either, but to me it captures the feel of the novel, if not the intention with which it was written. If you go in expecting thrills and excitement as Cormoran Strike solves the riddle of a supposed suicide, you’re going to be disappointed. If you go in with the intention of losing yourself in the details of the narrative, you’ll be much better off.
On the whole, I liked this much better than The Casual Vacancy. With that novel, I feel like I appreciated it more than I liked it… but I really did like The Cuckoo’s Calling. Quite a bit, actually. Strike is interesting (I kept wanting to call him “Striker” for some reason), though I never felt truly connected to him. Robin, his temporary assistant, is more relatable, and I enjoyed seeing her enthusiasm for what is supposed to be a temp job, as well as the evolving relationship (not a romantic one) between the two. One of my favorite scenes was one later in the novel, where Strike gets drunk and Robin tries sobering him up… it was especially fun to read.
At any rate, I was fully expecting to give this novel four stars all the way through… but the end didn’t quite work for me. Just a personal taste thing, not really indicative of the quality of the mystery. Still, I very much enjoyed the journey, if not the destination, and I look forward to the next book featuring Cormoran Strike.
Does this sound like something you would pick up? And if so, is it the book, or simply because Rowling’s name is now attached to it?