The Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for JK Rowling)
Read from my local library
Cormoran Strike lost his leg in Afghanistan and is now barely making ends meet working as a private investigator in London. He’s just split up with his long term girlfriend, the beautiful Charlotte and although that’s happened before, it seems that this time, it’s for good. Cormoran is now living in his dingy office, dodging his creditors and hoping that a client will walk through the door. He also forgot to cancel his agreement with Temporary Solutions, the company who provide him with a temp office worker and they’ve just sent someone new named Robin.
Then John Bristow arrives. The older brother of a school friend of Cormoran’s he had when he was very young, John wants Cormoran to take on the case investigating the death of his sister Lula Landry, a supermodel. A few months earlier, Lula fell to her death from the balcony of her luxurious apartment and it was ruled suicide by the investigating police, the coroner and an inquest. However John refuses to accept this – although Lula had her problems, he is absolutely adamant that she was not in so bad a frame of mind that she would commit suicide.
Although reluctant to take the case, desperation forces Strike to take it (and more importantly, Bristow’s money). He is plunged into an entirely different world of supermodels, famous designers, movie stars and directors, rappers and lurking everywhere, the paparazzi. The more Strike digs into this case, the more he begins to find that interests him. He’s beginning to think that there might’ve been a huge mistake somewhere in this after all. And even though he knows he can’t afford Robin as a permanent secretary, she proves herself more than capable for the job. If Strike breaks this, he might just get himself out of trouble.
As I’ve mentioned often, I haven’t read the Harry Potter novels. They came out at precisely the wrong time for me, when I was reading adult fiction and not particularly interested in kids books that contained wizards. I haven’t read The Casual Vacancy either but when I heard about this novel, for the first time I thought that JK Rowling had written something that I really wanted to read. I found the pseudonym unsurprising – especially after a lot of mixed opinions about The Casual Vacancy. I also found it unsurprising that the truth came out relatively quickly.
I love characters like Cormoran Strike even though they’re kind of common, with a few varying differences, in crime novels. They’re always damaged in some way – Strike is the son of a famous musician and a groupie with an unusual upbringing and who lost a leg at the knee in Afghanistan when he was military police. He’s basically hit almost as low as he can go at the beginning of the book. His volatile relationship with the beautiful and wealthy Charlotte has finally broken down irreparably and Strike can barely make ends meet with his detective business. He’s living in his office, avoiding phone calls when Robin walks into his life as his new temp after he forgot to cancel his agreement with the company she works for.
Robin is highly organised – the perfect secretary actually. She’s just gotten engaged to her perfect accountant boyfriend Matthew and he’s urging her to get a permanent job, one where she can draw a good salary. She and Strike are utterly different but slowly the two of them begin to construct a working relationship. Robin has always had a little fantasy of working in this sort of role and even though she could command a higher salary elsewhere she can’t deny that this work excites her.
I found the mystery and Strike’s way of investigating it rather interesting but ultimately it was Strike himself and the fledgling working relationship he begins to establish with Robin that interested me more. He’s rather matter-of-fact about his injury – what wounds him more is his relationship with Charlotte and the fact that it’s finally over. The two of them were total opposites, totally unsuited and have come together and been wrenched apart more than once. The best glimpse into his character came at a moment when he was drunk, his guard fully down. He was laid bare to Robin when prior to that the two of them had very carefully orchestrated a distant cordiality. I found that this book was easy to devour and it kept me guessing. As each clue unfolded I kept changing my mind about what I thought had happened. It kept me guessing about several things and I really liked that.
However, that’s not to say that the book is without flaws – there are some. It feels overly long. There are a couple of sections where it does seem to drag a bit, or goes off on a tangent that isn’t strictly necessary. And the reveal of the killer is done in a very long winded way where Strike explains to the killer exactly what he did and how and why. That’s kind of fine for this first installment but if Rowling plans to write more about Strike (and I think she does) then it’s going to need to be different. It’s my least favourite way for culprits to be revealed: the long explanation for the point of the reader, everything neatly listed almost in bullet points.
Ultimately though, I was pretty impressed with this book. It was a really enjoyable read and featured a character I want to know more about. I like the undercurrents between him and Robin as well and think it could play out very well over future books
Book #243 of 2013