When it was revealed this past July that J.K. Rowling had written a detective fiction novel under the alter ego Robert Galbraith, I knew I had to read it ASAP!
I love the Harry Potter books so much, and will continue to reread them probably throughout my whole life. I think they’re an example of a story carefully and thoroughly planned out from beginning to end, satisfyingly complete in the midst of its complexity.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a story of much less epic proportions. It is simpler, and you can sense that Rowling is allowing herself to relax and ease into a genre that is fun to write, and fun to write with a pseudonym, thus avoiding the hoopla and pressure.
It is the story of Lula Landry, a model who plunges to her death from her balcony to the result of mass media coverage.
Cormoran Strike is the detective hired to investigate, and the hero of this series (a sequel is due out in 2014). He is described as not handsome – with a look similar to a “young Beethoven who had taken to boxing”.
The book as a whole is tidy and methodical. Occasionally I felt that it was slightly tedious, as Strike meticulously works through interviews with the different people in Lula Landry’s life. But every time I felt that way, I was reminded that this style reflected Strike’s personality, a trait that I really enjoyed about him.
Strike’s character is organized in his detecting because his own life is in shambles. Because of relationship problems he is living in his office, which is awkward when his new temporary assistant Robin arrives.
I also enjoyed how Rowling, with the perception of a true writer, described the intricacies in the ways people relate to each other. For example, at one point Robin has to tell Strike that he buttoned his shirt wrong. He looks down and sees that a bit of hairy belly is exposed. He then resolves to be a bit cold to her for a day or two, to balance out the accidental intimacy of the patch of hairy belly. These are things that most of us would think and do subconsciously, but a truly amazing writer like Rowling notices and expresses.
Overall the book is a little dark, but not over-oppressive. The content would probably be considered PG-13 – there’s a lot of swearing.
I probably never would have guessed it was J.K. Rowling, but I’m sure I would have liked this novel regardless. I give it a B+ overall – I can’t wait to read the next installment!