Published by Mulholland Books on Apr. 30, 2013
Genres: Crime, Fiction
As most of you surely know by now, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I read The Casual Vacancy when it came out last year, and although it wasn’t my cup of tea, I thought it was a strong piece of literary fiction. When Rowling’s authorship of The Cuckoo’s Calling was revealed over the summer, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. I love me some JKR, but crime novels aren’t really my thing. In the end, curiosity won out and I picked up a copy. I finally read it in the last few weeks, and it restored all of my Rowling love that was lacking after TCV. It even made me interested in crime fiction!
Cormoran Strike’s life is kind of falling apart. His private investigator business is failing, he can’t get his office’s landlord off his back about overdue rent, his amputated leg may be getting infected, and he has split up with his fiance, moved out of her swanky apartment, and is now effectively homeless.
But then John Bristow pays him a visit and is willing to pay through the nose for Strike to investigate the death of his adopted sister, Lula Landry. Landry, a super model with mental issues and an abusive boyfriend, had fallen from her London balcony and died a few months earlier. Given her turbulent lifestyle, the police rule her death a suicide. John, however, is not convinced. He thinks his sister was murdered, and he wants Strike to find out who did it.
Accompanying Strike in his investigation is Robin, the secretary sent over by a temp agency after he let his last secretary go. Although he can’t afford the agency’s fees, he is immediately impressed by Robin’s efficiency, initiative, and intuition. With her help, Strike works to solve the mystery of Lula Landry’s death. His investigation introduces him to her druggie rock star boyfriend, glamorous models and designers, and millionaires with secrets to protect.
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Like I said, I don’t usually read crime novels, but I couldn’t put this book down. The writing style is classic Rowling, and I lapped it up. I also loved her descriptions of London. Based on a few toss-off remarks, I think she must have been writing this book during the semester I spent in London three years ago, so I got a kick out of that. She does a great job of bringing the city to life, describing the concrete grittiness of some areas and the lush, gardened streets of nicer areas.
I don’t know how The Cuckoo’s Calling compares to other crime/detective novels, but I thought it was very good. It was more character based than plot based, which I appreciated. I enjoyed getting to know Cormoran as a person as the novel progressed and Rowling filled in his back story. The dynamic between him and Robin was also quite fun, although I wished she would dump her jealous fiance! As for the mystery, I thought it was interesting; it kept me guessing, and I enjoyed trying to puzzle out the roles of the people Strike questioned. I also really liked Rowling’s examination of the price of fame.
I had a lot of fun with The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I definitely plan to read future books in the series, as well as anything else J.K. Rowling writes (duh). Reading this book has also made me more open to the crime genre in general. I have no plans to read junky mass market thrillers, but I’m no longer going to let myself be turned off by any synopsis containing the words “murder” or “mysterious crime.” (I know Elena will be thrilled.) Hooray for expanding my horizons!
Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? If so, how does it stack up to other crime novels? How do you think it compares to J.K. Rowling’s other work?