The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm are the first two entries in a new detective series featuring Cormoran Strike and written by much-beloved J.K. Rowling (her pseudonym should hopefully not be a spoiler, as it has been well-publicized and Rowling has been interviewed as Galbraith by now). Strike is a veteran and an amputee, struggling to turn a profit as a private detective in The Cuckoo’s Calling when he is approached to investigate the death of a famous model Lula Landry. Strike is accompanied by his temp secretary Robin, who harbors ambitions of becoming an investigator herself despite her fiancé Matthew’s doubts. In The Silkworm, Strike and Robin return to investigate the disappearance of an author who has just written a scathing book based on his peers.
I found both to be thoroughly satisfying mysteries and read them in quick succession. Both books contain many of the elements I love most about Rowling’s previous work. Her characters are colorful and dynamic, with distinctive names and diverse appearances and personalities, describing their actions or likelihoods so precisely that I have no trouble picturing each. She has an understated, sly humor to her writing that I greatly appreciate. Both endings tied up loose ends neatly with satisfying explanations but are easily open to further stories.
Compared to other mysteries I’ve read, one of things I also appreciate is that Rowling lays groundwork so well and brings you into her world matter-of-factly. Instead of packing each book full of repetitive car chases and gun fights, there is much more focus on the day-to-day interviewing and investigating than the action. She also doesn’t introduce the culprits in the last minute; the whole cast is presented in the beginning, and my friends and I had great fun trying to figure out whodunit. Romance still seems to be Rowling’s weaker point, but I’m willing to let that pass in light of the rest of the plot.
I never read The Casual Vacancy, based on the lukewarm reviews, but I’m grateful to have another J. K. Rowling series back in my life and am looking forward to the next installments.