By Dane Laborn
Cormoran Strike has been down on his luck as of late. Having lost his leg a few years ago in Afghanistan, he loses his girlfriend Charlotte of some 15 years the same morning he gets a new secretary, Robin. Her arrival marks a shift in his luck, and just a few hours later, a man named John Bristow walks into his office. Bristow’s sister, Lula Landry, the famous supermodel referred to as The Cuckoo by her friends, had plunged to her death from the top floor of her apartment building just two weeks prior. A troubled girl, the police dismissed it as suicide, but her brother is hardly convinced, positive they missed something — that it was murder. So begins The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime/mystery novel set in modern day London. The investigation will take Strike down the rabbit hole of wealth and fame, and by the time he’s done with them, high society won’t soon forget the frizzled, one-legged detective. The book was written by Robert Galbraith, later revealed to be a pseudonym for none other than J.K. Rowling.
Rowling may well be one of the cleverest writers of our age. Her newest book, The Cuckoo’s Calling seals that up with gusto. Cuckoo gives the reader the familiar ease Rowling brings to so many of her books, to plunge forward without even trying; constructing an intoxicating narrative within the first two pages that grabs hold of the reader and doesn’t let go until the final word. It’s very easy to see how she got an entire generation of children to read a book longer than Moby Dick. Her writing is at it’s best here, and being one of the children that she hooked on reading and wizardry, that takes a lot to admit.
When I heard the story of the name she chose, I had to laugh. One of the biggest, most successful authors in the world writing under a pseudonym, and no one found out until after the book had cracked the New York Times Bestseller List. I’ve heard rumors of her reasoning; to escape the judgement that had plagued her last book, The Casual Vacancy, she took steps to ensure that the fruits of her labors wouldn’t be judged alongside Harry Potter, that she would be able to write what she wanted and have it be judged by itself, as opposed to constantly being compared to the bespeckled boy with broken glasses that so many of us came to love over the years. In this, she has undoubtedly succeeded. There’s also something cool of the mystery at the heart of this mystery novel; who is Robert Galbraith, this unknown author with such a forcefully good book?
In a world dominated so heavily by C.S.I., Law & Order, Bones, Luther, Sherlock, etc., I pride myself on being able to find the killer, to solve the case. I race against the detectives and private eyes whose lives I read and watch. Cuckoo fooled me the whole way through, despite getting even more information on it’s variety of suspects than television ever gives me. This is one aspect of the book that makes it a standout among its peers. Being able to hold onto the mystery for any amount of time is an impressive thing for a crime novel now, considering how well informed we are as a whole, not to mention the internet.
The Cuckoo’s Calling will drag you into the world of the rich and famous, as Strike interviews the prominent young model’s closest fellows, from the man that designed most of the clothing she showed off in her career, to her drug-addled actor-turned-musician tumultuous boyfriend, Cormoran Strike ventures into not only the parts of high society Lula touched in life, but also into the darker aspects that come along with fame. He sees the paparazzi in everything Lula did, hears of her closest friends and confidants selling their stories about her to the tabloids to make a quick buck, using her to try and climb their own ladder to the top. This outsider-looking-in perspective helps give the reader a glimpse into the seldom seen or talked of downsides of fame and fortune.
Told through the eyes of both Strike and his new secretary Robin, Cuckoo is definitely a must-read. It’s mystery hooks you in, and is so well fleshed out that it keeps you guessing the answer right up to the moment that Strike himself realizes the truth. An enigma wrapped in secrecy, garnished with a thrilling narrative, The Cuckoo’s Calling is one book that should be added to everyone’s personal library. J.K. Rowling has done it again, and I, for one, truly hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of the grizzly detective, Cormoran Strike, or of Robin, his eager and hopeful assistant.