I finally (finally) got around to reading the debut mystery novel of “Robert Galbraith”, now famously a pseudonym adopted by goddess divine J.K. Rowling. The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first entry in the Cormoran Strike series, was engrossing and wonderful, and I’m pretty much an idiot for waiting this long.
The book starts with a brief prologue, with police making their way through a horde of journalists to the body of an apparent suicide victim; a famous and beautiful woman who has seemingly jumped from her balcony to her death on the snowy ground below. The story jumps ahead three months, and we meet our hero: former military investigator, now one-legged private investigator Cormoran Strike. Strike is introduced as a bewildering combination of competent and pathetic. He has creditors hounding him but no clients on the horizon, and he has had to move into his shitty office following a messy breakup with his on-again-off-again fiancée. We also meet Robin, a woman on top of the world with her shiny new engagement ring, secretly ecstatic to be arriving for her first day of temp work at a private detective’s office. The plot thickens with the arrival of a potential new client, lawyer John Bristow, using old family ties and the promise of a hefty sum to convince Strike to investigate the death of his adopted sister, gorgeous supermodel Lula Landry. John is convinced that Lula would not have killed herself and the police have missed something, and wants Strike to prove that Lula was MURDERED.
That’s about as much as I want to give away of the plot, because it is delightfully twisty. But honestly, even if you know exactly what happens, you should still read this book. I somehow had forgotten just how incredible J.K. Rowling’s writing can be. The realism that she brings to her characters is absolutely insane, even when they seem like complete caricatures on the surface. The vapid supermodel, the drugged-up asshole boyfriend, the flaming gay fashion designer…all of them are somehow genuine and relatable. Everyone seems to have their own agenda when it comes to Lula’s death and Strike’s investigation, but I found myself liking some of the potential murder suspects against my better judgment. As for the story itself, the whodunit was engrossing, but fair warning, the first third of the book is a bit of a slow burn. I’m usually a quick reader, but The Cuckoo’s Calling took me a few weeks to get through, because I’d read bits on my commute, then not pick it back up when I got home. Strike is a very thorough investigator, but the initial rehashing of all the police findings and trying to convince friends and witnesses to talk to him was not the most thrilling. Once people started actually coming out of the woodwork and talking to the detective, it definitely picks up. The ending was a complete surprise to me, albeit wrapped up a bit too quickly for my liking.
So, just in case I have somehow not made myself clear, I REALLY enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling. Rowling’s Galbraith’s, prose and attention to detail are exceptional, and her his dialogue managed to be utterly foreign (the accents!) and totally realistic. A genre that I love, written by such a talented author, was pretty much guaranteed to be a win. I’m just an idiot for waiting so long to read it.