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Book Review: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Cuckoo’s Calling

September 12, 2013

I picked up a copy of Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling out of curiosity, as I’m sure many did, after hearing that the book was actually authored by J.K. Rowling. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much, since I had barely made it past page 50 of her previous foray into adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy.

The book is a mystery, focusing on private investigator Cormoran Strike, a veteran of Afghanistan and amputee. We meet Strike just after an ugly breakup with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Charlotte, when he is offered a case by John Bristow, the brother of his deceased childhood friend, Charlie. It seems that Bristow’s sister, the supermodel Lula Landry, has committed suicide, but Bristow insists that it was foul play. While Strike, needing the money, takes the case, he is skeptical of Bristow’s theories. He’s reeling from his breakup with Charlotte and the emotional fallout from his military experiences. Assisting Strike is his new secretary, the recently engaged Robin, who insists that working for Strike is only temporary as she searches for a “real job,” even as she proves to have a serious aptitude for detective work.

Strike and Robin begin to investigate Lula’s friends and family, uncovering an increasingly complicated picture of Lula’s last days. While the ending is a bit Agatha Christie-ish, the journey that Rowling takes you on is completely worth it. The story does take some time to pick up speed…at first I wondered where exactly Rowling was going, but once she finished her “worldbuilding” (I know I’m using this term outside of its sci-fi context), the book really began to clip along. This is one of the few books that I’ve read in a long time (and I read a lot of mysteries) that kept me up half the night in order to get to the ending. Kind of like what happened when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, actually 🙂

There actually isn’t much in this book that would have tipped me off to it having been written by Rowling, rather than “Robert Galbraith.” Knowing that it was Rowling, however, led me to notice her always-creative use of character names (Cormoran Strike, Lula Landry, etc.) and her attention to detail. I really wonder about her seeming obsession with tobacco products. I loved the underlying scathing critique of both upper class British and celebrity culture. The character development was excellent (Guy Some, Lula’s friend/employer, for example, really needs to have his own book), and I can’t wait to see what she does with the growing relationship between Strike and Robin.

This book blew my socks off. I’m really hoping that Rowling makes this into her next series.

Source: My public library

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