Hello, book lovers! If you’re searching for your next great read, you’ve come to the right place. Today I’m talking about The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, who is actually J. K. Rowling via pseudonym.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is actually the first book of Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, of which I believe there are three now. I wasn’t aware that it was a series when I picked up the first book, but I did like it enough to recently pick up a copy of the second book, The Silkworm. I love discovering at the end of a great story that there’s more.
About the book: Private detective Cormoran Strike is struggling to keep his business afloat despite creditors calling daily for repayments on loans and a new secretary lined up by the temp agency to add to the costs, when the brother of his dead childhood friend approaches, asking for help in proving his celebrity sister’s death was not a suicide.The investigation into the girl’s death is told from the perspectives of both Cormoran and his resourceful secretary, Robin.
I usually need a little romance to get fully invested in new characters, but not every book needs a love story. I had a lot of respect for this one, in fact, in which a man and woman could work together with mutual appreciation for each other, without a romantic entanglement getting in the way of the main plot line. Both Cormoran and Robin have their own separate and complicated love lives, and they’re real, gritty characters. By which I mean, they have their faults and make mistakes, giving them a very real feel. One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is characters who feel obviously fabricated–a little too perfect or convenient–so I almost always need to remark on my impression of the characters.
“She consulted her watch. Having allowed her usual margin of time for getting lost, she was a quarter of an hour early. The nondescript black-painted doorway of the office she sought stood to the left of the 12 Bar Cafe; the name of the occupant of the office was written on a scrappy piece of lined paper taped beside the buzzer for the second floor. She checked her watch again, then decided, in a burst of euphoria, to go up early and show herself keen for a job that did not matter in the slightest.”
But it does prove to matter, and turns into an exciting job for Robin after all. Not only does she dive in to help with the single, practically-hopeless open case, but she stays on at the small detective agency longer than she planned or needed to. Together, Robin and Cormoran create and eliminate a list of suspects, encounter danger as they discover even more truth than they sought, and unearth a murderer’s long-buried secrets. To add to the fascination, there’s an interesting contrast between the lives of the celebrity victim and her famous acquaintances in comparison with the lives of the willingly underpaid secretary and the detective who finds himself virtually homeless for the duration of this book. The characters are diverse, interesting, and suspicious, but rarely predictable, which is a great feature for a murder mystery. The tension in this one is also more psychological than gory, which I would also consider a plus.
On Robert Galbraith: although I completely understand a writer’s desire to use a pseudonym and have no complaint whatsoever about that practice, this is one series that J. K. Rowling should be proud to put her own name on. Although the similarities between Cormoran Strike and Harry Potter are basically nonexistent, the same high-caliber writing is in play, and the story, while notably more adult than that of our beloved wizarding world, is equally captivating. I read Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy a couple of years ago, but my first impression of that book was nowhere near as favorable as my opinion of The Cuckoo’s Calling. I’m giving 5 stars, and I’m excited to see what the second Cormoran Strike book has in store for me.
- Obviously, if The Cuckoo’s Calling creates any new Rowling fans, check out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry Potter is such a staple of modern literature at this point that I have to recommend the series at some point, and this seems like a great opportunity.
- For more murders and mysterious surprises, as well as a little more gore, try my current favorite mystery series, The Women’s Murder Club, the first of which is 1st to Die, by James Patterson. These books are fast-paced, with tiny chapters, strong female characters, inevitable crazies, and unique crimes.
Coming up next: I’ve been trying so hard to choose between two Margaret Atwood novels. Because I read it most recently, I’m going to review The Handmaid’s Tale next, which is a dystopian novel that I’d consider a modern classic.
As usual, please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for me! I need great new books to keep me motivated to meet my reading goal for 2016, and I’m determined not to fall behind so early in the year. Are any of you still holding strong to a reading challenge this year? Or just reading insatiably for fun? Both? Regardless, happy reading!
The Literary Elephant
Update: find my thoughts on the second book in this series, The Silkworm, here.