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The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike) Paperback – April 29, 2014
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"One of the books of the year."―USA Today
"Robert Galbraith has written a highly entertaining book... Even better, he has introduced an appealing protagonist in Strike, who's sure to be the star of many sequels to come.... its narrative moves forward with propulsive suspense. More important, Strike and his now-permanent assistant, Robin (playing Nora to his Nick, Salander to his Blomkvist), have become a team--a team whose further adventures the reader cannot help eagerly awaiting."―Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Rowling switches genres seamlessly...a gritty, absorbing tale."―People (3.5 out of 4 stars)
"[Rowling's] literary gift is on display in this work. She crafts an entertaining story [and] comes up with an ending that I'll admit I was surprised by. . . . A fun read, with a main character you can care about and one you'll want to see again in other adventures."―Washington Post
"An extravagant, alien, fascinating world for its characters to explore...great pleasures."―Slate.com
About the Author
Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy.
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We have a long and circuitous plot to navigate, sometimes a bit tedious, in the classic rendition of a British detective mystery. On the positive side, we are introduced to some fascinating characters in the film industry and the world of haute couture. The most interesting fellow is the protagonist, private detective Cormoran Strike. (A brief digression: If you add a ’t’ to his first name, we have a rapacious sea bird or, alternately, a greedy person. What was the author trying to convey with this trick?)
Anyway, Strike is on the verge of personal and professional disaster. He’s deep in debt and has just broken up with Charlotte, the love of his life. Enter John Bristow, brother of Lula Landry who has just jumped off her apartment’s balcony. Or was she pushed? That’s what Bristow wants to know. Strike also has a physical problem, one which we read a lot about. Part of his right leg was blown off while serving in Afghanistan, a handicap that limits his mobility.
Strike takes the case and, aided by his ‘temporary’ receptionist named Robin, he begins the nitty-gritty step-by-step sleuthing by interviewing Lula’s friends, family, business associates, etc. The plot is thick with detail and unreliable witnesses, one which will leave you guessing until end when it’s all sorted out with an unexpected twist.
The plot is complex, but JKR puts nary a foot wrong. She is totally fair to the reader as the detective travels through a cleverly constructed labyrinth of usually obscure clues; no smoking guns here. The detective and his assistant (temp secretary) are excellently drawn and fully believable. The writing is of course beautiful and evocative as always. And good luck at identifying the villain before the revelation; JKR doesn't make it easy. (Fooled me!)
We must hope that, as rumored, there are more Cormoran Strike cases to come. I'm encouraged by the six-line quotation from Tennyson's "Ulysses" with which JKR ends the book -- doesn't seem that Cormoran is anywhere near ready to hang it up!
One minor, purely editorial annoyance: A century ago it was arguably important to alter British spelling, and occasionally word usage, to American norms. In 2013, IMNSHO it's ridiculous, pointless, and if anything detracts from authenticity and the reader's "willing suspension of disbelief." Stop it already.
Added: I was asked by a family member whether this book would be suitable for his early-teens daughter, a voracious reader. I replied that I thought it would be fine, with a caveat re the frequency of the f-word (mostly used as "punctuation" rather than for its literal meaning). There is no explicit sex and very little violence. I hope this coda may be helpful to parents asking the same question.