If I counted correctly, I’m the sixth Cannonballer to pick up The Cuckoo’s Calling, so you’re probably already familiar with the summary: injured war veteran and private detective Cormoran Strike, down on his luck and down to his last pence; his new girl Friday, Robin, newly engaged and enthralled with the prospect of working with a real live detective; a celebrity suicice–OR IS IT?–and a bunch of usual suspects, all with a conceivable motive and a suspicious air about them.
None of the individual characters were really anything special, as far as I was concerned. There were plenty of detective story cliches. A supermodel’s suspicious death, the trappings of wealth, the hangers-on, jealous friends, and dysfunctional family has been done, you know? So I wouldn’t have picked it up for the plot alone. But the book is greater than the sum of its parts–Rowling can tell a story. She has great little turns of phrase hidden in the action, and clever observations about human nature. The characters that could have been caricatures are developed and real (although there are still some that struck me as well-described caricatures–the gold-digging Ursula and Tansy come to mind.) The plot moved quickly and after about the halfway mark, I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t guess the ending, and I really enjoyed the big reveal at the end. Strike’s personality grew on me. It did not feel like a long book, although the paperback is over 500 pages.
Two things kinda bugged me: One, I didn’t care for, or care about, or whatever, Strike’s ex-fiancee Charlotte. I liked some of the phrases describing his post-breakup emotional state, but I kind of wanted him to snap out of it, because she was obviously a terrible person. Post-breakup, Strike manages to sleep with a supermodel, which made me roll my eyes. The only below-average looking women in the book were also kind of terrible people (Alison and Rochelle), which was a little too predictable, you know? That said, I appreciate that there were a number of well-rounded women in the cast and that the sidekick Robin got a lot of emotional development that sidekicks aren’t usually granted.
Two, there were a few parts where Strike’s conclusions seemed like lucky guesses–that Wilson slipped on the water drops from the roses, for instance. How would Strike have known he slipped? But that’s forgivable, in light of the strengths of the rest of the book.
Rating: 4/5: I was pleasantly surprised by this, and really enjoyed it. I will definitely be buying the next installment of the series.