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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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Right on cue, the client of Strike's dreams walks through the door and promises to solve all his problems if he'll look into the apparent suicide of world-famous supermodel Lula Landry. The central mystery is presented as the old 'locked room' scenario: as far as anyone can tell, Lula was alone in her apartment and no one could have entered the building, gotten to the third floor, pushed her out the window, and escaped back down to the lobby without being seen by security or the other tenants, who were hysterical over Lula's swan dive. The three other people in the building are all accounted for thanks to their own accounts of what happened, but one of them claims to have heard Lula screaming at someone before the fall--which should be impossible because of all the soundproof barriers between them at the time. It's up to Strike to penetrate the mystery and find out what went on in that building.
You could argue that this novel is overly long and unnecessarily slow, but it only seems that way because so much of the genre is overly concerned with fast pacing and constant cliffhangers. Cuckoo's Calling grabs your attention the old-fashioned way and holds it without any tricks. It feels gratifying. The payoff: immense character depth that makes you want to hang in for the sequels. Cuckoo also eschews the 'final twist' formula that has, frankly, become tired. While that presents challenges of its own that don't all work, it makes Cuckoo a refreshing read.
Head to my blog at SupposedlyFun.com for an expanded version of this review.
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.
As with Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, this novel is more of a character study than a narrative of the characters' actions. The gruff somewhat burned out personality of Strike is contrasted with Robin's naïve excitement and interest in detective work. The two main characters establish a somewhat complicated relationship that readers hope will last even though Robin works for a temporary agency. The two travel to several London settings that are nicely described and cover a wide area of the large metropolis.
A host of other interesting characters are introduced largely via Strike and Robin's interviewing during the case: supermodels, a movie producer and his wife, a famous clothing designer, an active duty British soldier, an indigent hostel dweller, British police inspectors, a famous rapper, and lawyers in a staid and wealthy London solicitors firm.
"Galbraith" writes the story in in a third person voice, a great choice that avoids the limitations of the detective describing everything from his limited point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed the exciting story from beginning to end and certainly will buy the next novel in the series, The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike Novel). I liked the quotations presented at the beginning of the book and the start of each chapter. There are book extras on the Kindle edition including Characters, Glossary, Themes, Memorable Quotes and other categories of interesting information. I hope the series continues with many volumes to come. I give The Cuckoo's Calling my highest recommendation.