The Cuckoo’s Calling
I have to say this first: had I not known that it was JK Rowling behind the pen name of Robert Galbraith, I may have never picked up The Cuckoo’s Calling. Which would be a terrible shame, because it is a ripping good read!
I think the jump to crime/thriller is one JK Rowling has made rather elegantly. After all, Harry Potter always had a suspenseful mystery and three protagonists solving the puzzles and rescuing the school from basilisks and ominous prophecies alike. Rowling’s style is an old fashioned murder mystery, very Agatha Christie like, but one that is brilliantly mapped across our modern media landscape – the phone hacking scandal and Facebook obsession is given a wry and biting expose. Also, since I couldn’t resist, I did keep a close eye out for Harry Potter references. I found several, and would love to hear in the comments what Harry-isms you noticed!
At 2am, Lula Landry, an uber famous supermodel falls to her death from her balcony. The police are content to leave it at a suicide verdict – a tragic, bipolar model who was a victim of turbulent life, media scrutiny and loneliness. But Lula’s brother, John Bristow, is unwilling to let it rest. People are digging in the shadows, trying to uncover the truth – that Lula didn’t jump from the balcony, but was shoved.
Enter Cormoran Strike, an ex-army officer turned private detective and to me, a very Mad Eye Moody type of guy. Disillusioned with life after losing his leg in the Afghan War, he takes on the case to pay his rising debts and uncovers a web of lies, false accusations and blackmail that spin out of control. Who is guilty, who is innocent or did everyone in the social circle have a hand to play in Lula’s tragic death?
“How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”
There’s a great plot, it’s a well-paced mystery that reveals clues and throws out red herrings at the right moments. The characters are good, from Hermione-esque office temp Robin, disillusioned Strike, to the enigmatic cipher that is Lula Landry herself, everyone is duplicitous and interesting, shady, deceitful and really readable.
The ending of the book does show justice being dealt and wraps up all the smaller mysteries within the mystery (what will happen to the money, who is really sleeping with who, that sort of thing) but leaves the ultimate ending hanging – will Strike and Robin become a mystery solving duo? I certainly hope so; The Cuckoo’s Calling is a great and very enjoyable crime/thriller read and it would be awesome if this could become JK Rowling’s next big series.