Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Genre: Detective Fiction/Murder-Mystery/Whodunnit/Crime Fiction
“How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”
When set against the greats such as Christie’s Poirot, Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Chandler’s Marlowe, the detective in crime fiction certainly has standards to live against. And through all these mysteries, whodunnits, kidnapping, exortion, missing persons and good ol’ fashioned murders, readers begin to wonder if there can ever been a new detective who can rival these. But fear not! For in 2013, under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, our favourite magical writer J.K Rowling published The Cuckoo’s Calling, and gave us a detective with more issues than Vogue.
When, on one snowy night, the supermodel Lula Landry plunges off her Mayfair balcony, her death sends shockwaves through the press and celebrity world. Written off as a desperate suicide bid, the case seems closed on this tragic event, and her family are left to grieve the loss of their daughter. However, when her brother seems to have his doubts, and begins to suspect murder, he starts his own search and enlists the skills of private investigator, Cormoran Strike. Strike, a hulking war veteran with both physical, and psychological injuries, and whose life seems to on a downward spiral, initially takes on the case for pure financial gain. Yet, as he becomes involved in the secret world of the celebrity, and what the glitz and glamour hides to the public, Strike begins to piece together Landry’s last few hours, and whether it was a cry for help, or something far more sinister.
Like the traditional murder-mysteries, it does follow a familiar pattern of the description of the murder scene, introduction of the detective, being employed to take on the case, the long witness questioning, and narrowing down of events until the detective reveals what happened, and although it does follow this pattern down, it never seems to be dull or dip in interest at any time. Galbraith (as I will be calling the author) was very methodical in his approach to narrowing down the case, and making Strike research every possible avenue, so the reader benefits from every aspect of this case.
The characters in the novel truly have clearly been clearly thought out, and almost birthed by the author to make actually fully-fledged individuals, each with their different flaws and situations.
Cormoran Strike is one of those characters who you warm too and find yourself wanting to meet such a person. His complex life and back-story is played out so well, that it doesn’t feel as though you’re being fed information, but you just pick up on it and piece a person together in your own time. For the reader, his grumpy and less than perfect personality makes him even more lovable, and there are points when you do just want to slap him due to his argumentative side.
With Robin, Strike’s assistant, she is also a figure of great intrigue. A perfect counterpoint to Strike, as she is a woman who knows her own mind, is highly intelligent and determined and uses her own initiative throughout the text, which makes her an invaluable piece in the case.The working/friendship relationship between Robin and Strike is also one of ups and downs throughout the novel, but plays back-fiddle enough to make it not too in your face, but enough to keep it interesting.
The other characters, and most interestingly, the deceased figure of Lula Landry do each get significant parts of the novel dedicated to the exploration of who they are and why they are driven into being important to the crime. What I find interesting is that Lula, despite being dead before the novel even starts, her story is revealed right throughout the novel, and at the end, she feels like one of the most alive characters going.
Also, it’s interesting to see how Galbraith portrays the media circus around the case. Due to the death being one of a famous model in such a dramatic circumstance, bringing the media back into the threshold of the possible murder is a constant weapon that Strike is aware of throughout the entire narrative. It makes the novel feel tense, and that if a slip-up could happen, it couldn’t be hidden.
The language used throughout the novel flows well, and draws the reader in, and only releases its hold until the last page has been turned over. Galbraith is very good at describing people as well as transcribing accents and dialects, which does add to the realism of the text. The author also describes the city of London in a convincing and realistic manner, and does make you feel that you, the reader, is right next to Strike as he runs through dark allies and into abandoned houses.
I found this novel to be highly readable, very interesting, a complete page-turner and also complex enough that you do keep guessing what actually happened until the very end. And as this is a first in the series, I can expect great things from Strike and Galbraith. This particular book is available now, along with the sequel.
So, if you as a reader, enjoyed:
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Then you’ll love this!
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