As you all know, The Cuckoo’s Calling is actually written by J.K. Rowling, under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. This book bears little resemblance to Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy, so I have to respect Rowling for trying something new.
I don’t read a lot of modern-day mysteries. I prefer mysteries set in the past, but I enjoyed this book very much. It is what it is, a mystery novel with a good story and interesting characters. It’s not groundbreaking, and it’s not a novel you’ll cry over or remember long after you’ve read it. It is what it is.
Cormoran Strike is a private detective and a veteran who recently lost a leg in military action. He’s out of clients, awash in debt, and his fiancée just kicked him out of their house. Robin is his assistant, a temp who shows up at his door who he can’t quite fire.
John Bristow hires him to investigate the suicide of his adopted sister, supermodel Lula Landry. All the evidence says suicide, but Bristow thinks it was murder. Strike needs the money desperately but tries to turn him down because there isn’t much of a case. Bristow insists, and Strike and Robin are suddenly thrown into the glamorous world of the super-wealthy.
I loved the characters of Strike and Robin, and I particularly liked the parallels between Lula’s life and Strike’s. Strike is the child of a rock star and a groupie, and this case brings up lots of conflicting feelings about family and wealth and stardom.
As a mystery, this novel has a nice progression of fact-finding. It moves from interview to interview in a realistic-feeling way. For example, we see that it actually takes a lot of work to set up interviews, people don’t just show up. There’s a level of detail I appreciated, such as Strike and Robin walking around Robin’s neighborhood and taking a tour of her building. Some mysteries have a lot of action, but this one is a lot more about talking and planning. If that sounds dull, it’s not. It’s like we’re seeing the actual work of being a detective.
I’m not sure the resolution of the mystery entirely worked for me, but getting there certainly did. It’s pretty impressive that I felt like I knew Lula by the end even though we never get to meet her. Rowling reminds us constantly that Lula isn’t some stereotype. She could be selfish, impulsive, romantic, emotional, and smart, and everyone sees her differently.
The book is well-written, with a nice use of poetry at the end, good dialogue, and well-developed characters. I doubt it breaks any new ground in the mystery genre, but it was a read I enjoyed. I’m assuming Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling have more Strike and Robin for us in future books. I hope so.