The Cuckoo’s Calling
I was going to participate in the Cannonball Read over at Pajiba, but after reading 7 books, the thought of writing reviews for each one was a little daunting... So, I am going to put the reviews up here instead. Sound fair?
This book is a fairly straightforward private detective story. As it is the first appearance of these characters, there are significant portions of the book devoted to backstory and establishing the rules of this particular version of modern England. The mystery is fairly straightforward: a supermodel has fallen from her balcony in the middle of a snowy night. The police have determined that she committed suicide, but her brother is not convinced and hires a private detective, Cormoran Strike to find the truth. As Strike and his temporary secretary go about working this case, we are introduced to who these characters are and what drives them. The mystery itself unfolds in bits and pieces, with the author doing an excellent job of parceling out clues.
As with any private detective story, The Cuckoo’s Calling’s success or failure is going to hinge on the main character. Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin Ellacott are both compelling characters who feel fully drawn, even when they are conforming to the demands of the genre. Strike is a loner, nursing a recent break-up, while Robin is almost too good to be true in her role as the innocent temporary secretary who ends up providing valuable assistance to Strike. Books like this expose the difficulty of writing in a genre: staying true to the form, but making the characters feel natural, rather than just a type.
It really isn’t possible to write about this book without talking about the author. This was originally published under the name of Robert Galbraith, which is of course a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. The authorship question certainly brought more attention to this book, but it is a successful private eye novel, no matter who wrote it. There are elements of her style on display here, but this book shows her obvious affection for the field.