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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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The first in a series of detective novels, this is the Introduction of Cormoran Strike, a private investigator who has seen better days: he’s previously lost half a leg in Afghanistan, loses his longtime girlfriend as the novel begins, is receiving death threats from a former client, and is down to a single client and facing mounting debt.
The arrival of his new temporary secretary, Robin, ushers in a season of change for both of them. Soon, Strike is hired by the brother of a supermodel who famously fell to her death from the balcony of her third-floor flat 3 months prior. Her brother—who also happens to be the brother of one of Strike’s friends who died as a child—offers a great deal of money to Strike to prove Lula’s death was not suicide, but murder.
There are lots of twists and turns in the mystery/investigation, and the prerequisite number of red herrings floating about. I honestly was less impressed by the mystery and its outcome (throwing away things that don’t make sense by way of virtually saying, “Who knows what goes through the mind of a psychopath?” is the sign of a lazy or incompetent author, and Rowling is normally not either) than I was by the characters of Cormoran and Robin, though I did feel a lot more development could have happened with them, but considering the book was already close to 600 pages and the pacing seemed to drag at times, perhaps it is best Rowling/Galbraith saved some for future books in the series.
Based on the strength of the main characters and some of the peripheral ones, I gave this 4 out of 5 stars, and will be picking up the next book in the series to see how these characters continue to develop.
Part of what made the Harry Potter books such an amazing read was the descriptions and phrasing created a visceral world that the reader could actually inhabit. Additionally, the characters are all so well-conceived and three-dimensional. These two talents that Rowling/Galbraith is a genius at made The Cuckoo's Calling charming, immersive, and, at times, heartbreaking. Corcoran Strike is a character that leaps off the page and the other characters around him, whether present or just part of the lush background of his world, feel very much real.
Make no mistake, this is hard-boiled detective book for grown-ups, f-bombs, double-intendre, seduction, femme fatale, and all. I immediately downloaded the follow-up and am so happy to have a new detective to follow.
Cormoran is a well-drawn character. He has a complex past who brings interest to his character: life as a cast-off child born out of wedlock, several years in the army culminating in a serious wound, a love affair with a volatile woman, and a sudden financial crisis that makes it important to solve the current mystery.
My main complaint about the book is the ending (which of course I won’t spoil). Even after several hundred pages of investigation, it is not clear how Strike how he reached his conclusions; he simply announces his solution, which fortunately turns out to be correct. The book thus is missing one of my favorite features of a missing story: how the detective figured it all out. A lesser quibble is Cormoran’s endless brooding over his recent love affair, which is frustrating to read because his girlfriend never appears to give her side of the story.
The interest of the novel is the portrayal of Cormoran and his assistant, Robin, as they explore the aristocrats and celebrities and tries to figure them out.