The Cuckoo’s Calling – Review

Book: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym for J. K. Rowling)
Year: 2013

Book Cover
Book Cover

I read a very interesting comment by someone on a review of this book on the Internet; it said something to the effect, “We’re all disappointed when J. K. Rowling writes something that isn’t Harry Potter.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. Given that Harry Potter heralded a change and tinkered with imaginations worldwide, and thus became a loved classic while the author is still alive is stuff that dreams are made of. It’s good to cut Rowling some slack if she doesn’t do an encore, and that’s why Robert Galbraith. Published in April 2013, with minimal publicity than it garners now, The Cuckoo’s Calling came under the spotlight when it was leaked that the book has been written by Rowling under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, a supposed ex-military officer. I will not lie; I did pick the book only when the news came out. Fortunately for me, my expectations were at rock bottom. Because I believe that there’s just one Harry Potter series, and we’ve adored it, devoured it, and endowed it with all our love and continue to do so.

Cut to The Cuckoo’s Calling. The book opens with the scene of suicide of a famous supermodel Luna Landry. There are yellow tapes, flashing lights, and two policemen who can’t wait to get it over with it. In another world, enters Robin Ellacott, a young girl who has just been proposed by the love of her life in a sweeping romantic gesture. An effervescent Robin’s first day at her temporary job finds her in the company of Detective Cormoran Strike, an ex-military policeman who lost a leg in Afghanistan. A whirlwind introduction and some awkwardness later, Robin finds herself seated at the reception of Strike’s languishing office. As Strike’s good luck would have it that day, he is unexpectedly visited by a client – John Bistrow – who wants Strike to investigate the murder of his sister Luna Landry. John Bistrow doesn’t believe his sister jumped to her death and wants Strike to find out what really happened. As Luna, known to her friends as Cuckoo, was a high-profile model, her case was all over the papers, it was given enough attention and was carefully investigated. So, Strike tries to convince John that he’s wasting his time. John creates a ruckus in Strike’s office, where Strike is helped by his quick-thinking new secretary Robin, and Strike finally accepts the job for a double wager.

What follows is due diligence on Strike’s part as he unravels one by one the layers of events leading to Cuckoo’s death. He meets the people she knew, goes to places she frequented, and receives a fat lot of help from Robin. To solve the case, Strike pulls a few strings of his own, while his own heartstrings are being assaulted by his ex-fiance who has left him for the nth time. While nursing a heartache and an ache in his amputated leg; trying to keep a secretary he can’t afford; and solving this case, Strike shows much development in character. How he solves the case by adding pieces of the jigsaw and finding evidence where the police lost out, Strike comes out winning and how! Here, one must stop and admire the pep added to the story by Robin’s character who shows zest and wit helping Strike to solve the case.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a well-woven book. However, I felt the writing was a little slack in places. Damn me if I say that Rowling’s description of modern day London is nowhere at par with her description in HP, but it’s the truth. At some points in the book you could skip the description and move on to read only the dialogue to find out what happened. Given that this is the same woman who wrote hundreds of quotable quotes, even thousands, you can’t quote a single line from this one. But then again, one has to forget HP. The book is divided into 5 parts; 7 if you count Prologue and Epilogue. Each part starts with a quote and the name of the book itself comes from Christina Rosetti’s poem A Dirge.

All in all, you won’t regret picking up this book. The recommendation would be to forget that it has been written by a certain J. K. Rowling who captured your imagination with genius and remember that Cormoran Strike is out for his first adventure.

There is no arguing that good writing can hold its head high despite all odds. And yes, Robert Galbraith can write.



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