Author: Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Sphere Books
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The Cuckoo's Calling can be described in a nutshell as 'a crime novel for Harry Potter fans'. Old-fashioned (next to no sex scenes), heavy on characterisation and dialogue. An Agatha Christie-esque feel to it, the first appearance of Cormoran Strike, scarred detective, and Robin, his sidekick who radiates efficiency, will leave the average reader eager for more.
When The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith first got published in April 2013, it only sold 1500 copies, and I am not surprised, as no one had ever heard the author’s name before. But that soon changed. On 14th July 2013 The Sunday Times revealed that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym adopted by none other than J. K. Rowling. And then the world went into a buying frenzy, and the book surged from 4,709th to 1st on Amazon’s best-selling books’ list.
I admit, I would have enjoyed it a bit more if I hadn't known that bit of information. I found that it was hard for me to be unbiased about the narrative perspective of male and female writers. But nevertheless, this book is a piece of ingenious writing, whether it’s the story or the characters or prose style.
When supermodel Lula Landry (Cuckoo) -a "bronze-skinned, colt-limbed, diamond-cut beauty"- was found dead on the pavement in front of her own building, everyone assumed it was a case of suicide. A few months later, her still unconvinced brother, John Bistrow hires a private eye, Cormoran Strike, to re-investigate the case. (What is it with Rowling and theatrical names? Severus Snape, Marvolo Gaunt, Cormoran Strike…. was the protagonist’s unusual name one of the clues that led to the real author’s identity? )
In his early thirties, Cormoran Strike, who lost his leg in Afghanistan and now uses a prosthetic limb, is not your average sweet-talking, easy-on-the-eyes, stereotypical detective. His private eye business is not booming at the moment, and he just got dumped by his fiancé.
Strike delves into the mystery and characters that surrounded Cuckoo, and becomes aware of the dark and sometimes hostile side of the glittery and glamorous world of fashion. Joining Strike is the newly-engaged intern from Temporary Solutions, Robin, who was sent to Strike only to fill a position temporarily (duh! ). She's not your typical flirtatious female sidekick; in fact she is enthusiastic about detective work, and is very intelligent and competent. Almost all of the significant characters in this book are not traditional or typical in any sense, which was very refreshing.
The thing I most liked about this book is the depth and richness of the lead characters’ back stories. The descriptions of the London streets, the Victorian pubs and the lifestyle of high profile Londoners are fascinating. The whole first act of the book is very Sherlock Holmes-esque, especially the client-detective conversation. Rowling’s literary gift is obvious throughout the book.
Among the negatives, I should make my case against the writer's style in her dialogues, laden with words like 'igzactly' and 'nillness', which were downright distracting and marred my enjoyment in reading interesting conversations. But in the end, I felt like Cuckoo might’ve been dead throughout the book, but I knew her better than any of the other characters thanks to their conversations.
Rowling said she always wanted to write a crime novel and that she immensely enjoyed writing The Cuckoo's Calling. And that can be felt while reading this book. She also confirmed that a sequel is already finished and is expected to be published in 2014. That is indeed welcome news for all the newly bred Cormoran Strike fans (myself included!).