Whether or not it was her way of sticking two fingers up at her critics, I think it was pretty clever of J. K. Rowling to publish ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith after receiving mixed reviews for ‘The Casual Vacancy’ last year. Interestingly, the feedback for ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was unanimously positive from both critics and readers before the identity of the real author was revealed. But does it live up to the hype?
Cormoran Strike is a private detective living in central London who is hired by John Landry to investigate the death of his adopted sister Lula, a famous model who fell to her death from a third-floor balcony in Mayfair some months earlier. The official verdict was suicide but other evidence that was never fully investigated at the time of the original inquiry points to a rather more sinister conclusion.
An ex-military policeman with a prosthetic leg and a troubled past, Strike is an intriguing character. Some other reviews of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ have drawn comparisons between Strike and Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie character although I would say that Strike has a much more compelling background story. The relationship between Strike and his super efficient temporary assistant Robin Ellacott is a very convincing double act which also brings some nice comic moments to the story. The writing is more literary in style than is perhaps typical for crime fiction and the focus is very much on the characters but the plot is complex and well paced. In particular, the ending was skilfully unravelled and very well thought out. I also really liked the balance between the contemporary setting of modern-day London and the classic whodunnit mystery storyline.
Although it was unfortunate for Rowling that the truth about Robert Galbraith was revealed so quickly, I doubt it would have stayed secret for much longer. The book had already been selling reasonably well for an unknown debut author and sooner or later, someone was bound to notice certain things about the style of writing which were certainly unusual for a male crime fiction writer such as the descriptions of women’s clothing. I can see why ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ is generally more popular than ‘The Casual Vacancy‘ but I enjoyed both of them pretty much equally. Nevertheless, as I said in my review, I am still pretty sure that the latter would have received more positive reviews had Rowling decided to publish it under a pseudonym too.
‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ is the first in a series of Cormoran Strike novels. I certainly look forward to reading more as ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ is a brilliant introduction to an intriguing private investigator.
13 responses to “The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith”
I kind of wish her secret could have been kept 🙂 (wishful thinking perhaps), but your review has definitely motivated me to give this book a whirl!
I heard about the book then found out later that it was written by JK Rowling. I have a confession, I’ve never read any Harry Potter book in my life so I probably wouldn’t notice if she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling. BUT this book got me really interested. I bought it earlier this year but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. Thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading it.
I can see why she chose to use a pseudonym – I thought Casual Vacancy was great and didn’t deserve criticism it got. This sounds just as good so will look forward to reading it.
I loved it as well and if there was something similar between TCC and TCV is how good Rowling is at creating a steady pace so that you never get bored. I’m really glad you loved it, maybe we could organise a read-along for Cormoran #2? 🙂
Great review. I’m not one for crime fiction at all but I think this may be a good way in, since I keep hearing references to the literary style. I was lucky enough to receive a Waterstones gift voucher for Christmas so this could be in the haul very soon! Woo hoo.
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Have only read the first Harry Potter, but definitely will be reading both The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoos Calling, and the rest of Harry Potter this year. Dommage! that her secret couldn’t have been kept but it’s to be expected that someone is going to squeal. Happy New Year!
This was a quality review. I really enjoyed The Casual Vacancy, even if it felt a bit bloated. Still, in my heart of hearts, I really wish Rowling would get back to writing fantasy.
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Hi. I borrowed this book from a friend but still haven’t read it yet. some of my friends liked it, and some others really hated it. 🙂
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