Series: Cormoran Strike
Book Number: 1
Read this book for: realistic investigation, alibi-breaking, great characters, very readable prose, page-turning mystery
Quick Review: Contains all the elements of a great mystery; incredibly enjoyable read that will keep you turning pages till the end.
Private detective Cormoran Strike is called in to investigate the apparent suicide of a supermodel who has fallen to her death from the balcony of her London home. Strike’s personal life is a mess, but he must force his way out of his own issues to find out whether the model’s brother is right in asserting his sister’s death was a murder – and to stop it from happening again.
THE CUCKOO’S CALLING is the first novel by Robert Galbraith – the pen name of J.K. Rowling, the much-loved author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling proves once again in this novel, her first foray into mystery writing, just how fantastic an author she is.
And it is truly an engrossing mystery. THE CUCKOO’S CALLING recalls Christie and P.D. James with its elements of a locked room puzzle, the hunt for motives and the alibi-breaking that form the basis of the majority of the investigation in this novel. This would be a great foundation for a story on its own, but Rowling marries it with solid detective work, not taking any deductive leaps, and the way that clues are discovered is satisfying while still propelling you through the novel.
The characters are also very engaging. Cormoran Strike is a “damaged detective”, as is typical of the genre, but his flaws, situation, and the way he handles it seems so much more real than the standard stereotype. His war injury, his situation with his fiancée, and his background are so human that he is almost as fascinating as the mystery he is investigating. Efficient temp Robin and the rest of the characters also have their own little quirks that break them from the typical and really bring them to life.
The entire novel has a tendency to take these accepted genre templates and turn them on their heads, which is incredibly refreshing. While the departures are not large, the combination makes the story stand out as an example of what a simple, entertaining mystery should be. Combined with Rowling’s trademark prose, which is simple, magnetic and accessible, but surprisingly beautiful in places, you have a novel that is almost impossible to put down once you pick it up.
Definitely pick up THE CUCKOO’S CALLING; it’s a classic mystery written for a modern era. It’s a light, refreshing read, and the way it entertains is a perfect example of the potential that is still there in the genre – even if you don’t depart too far from the usual!