Books Magazine

Book Review: ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’

By House Of Geekery @houseofgeekery

Author: Robert Galbraith (better known as J.K. Rowling)

Plot: In the months following the apparent suicide of world renown supermodel Lula Landry her adopted brother hires private detective Cormoran Strike to prove that it was actually murder. Together with his new secretary Robin, Strike enters the glamourous world of celebrity and fashion to unravel the truth.

The Cuckoos Calling
Review: Before getting into the book proper, The Cuckoo’s Calling features possibly the smartest marketing strategy of the year. After Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy, came under an unreasonable level of scrutiny. By dint of being a novel written for adults by J.K. Rowling, the biggest selling author in history, everyone had something to say and many critics seemed to be looking for an excuse to say something negative. The Cuckoo’s Calling was released under a fake name and only when the good reviews came in did they reveal who the real author was. Get the honest reviews without the Rowling stigma, and then get the sales by association.

Anyway, onto the book itself. First thing we noticed was that giving everyone strangely lyrical names wasn’t something Rowling did for the wizard world. Lula Landry, Guy Somé, Rochelle Onifade, Kieran Kolovas-Jones…to be fair it is a reflection on them all being part of the fashion and movie industry and some of them are stage names. It does make it feel like an extension of Diagon Alley. Putting aside the strange frequency of wizard names this is a grounded and intriguing mystery novel.

The story takes place in the modern era of showbiz with paparazzi, social networking and sleaziness galore. In spite of this Detective Strike harkens back to the classic noir movies and it’s hard not to imagine him in a trenchcoat and pulling a Bogie. There’s a wide range of characters including corrupt cops, wealthy business men and beautiful young women that all show different sides of themselves as the story goes on. Rowling doesn’t set out to rebuild the genre, instead plunging headfirst into well trodden territory.

Rowling has created a strong ebb and flow with the narrative, with a large chunk of the story focusing on Strike interviewing the various characters. The dialog crackles when it is at it’s best, and he mystery unravels nicely at the end. One can’t help but feel there’s a couple of real people from Rowling’s social circles who influenced the characters, with a venomous tone reserved for the paparazzi feeling especially real.

This is a cut and dry crime fiction, with the dynamic between Strike and Robin potentially laying the ground for a new franchise. It doesn’t break any new ground, nor does it present any big ideas, but it won’t disappoint. 

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