The Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Galbraith
(aka J.K. Rowling)
I started this book on CD in my car driving back and forth to work then ended up buying it on my kindle that weekend to finish. That ought to tell you something.
The main story line is not all that unique in the world of mysteries. A veteran of the most recent war, Cormoran Strike, has become a private detective and is hired by the brother of a former friend to investigate the suspicious death of his sister, a supermodel living in the glitzy world of high fashion who plunged from her balcony one winter night. The police have ruled it suicide but the brother is positive it is not.
Cormoran Strike is at once a traditional gumshoe, a veteran of war trying to make his way on limited finances, and also rather modern. He lost his leg in the army and he is, somewhat unusual for a private detective, not self-destructive.
What sets this book apart is the writing. It was noted when The Cuckoo’s Calling first came out that the story was so well crafted that it hardly seemed like a first novel. As we eventually found out, it wasn’t. The writing is masterful and that is part of what makes this novel so enjoyable.
The scene is set immediately with broad strokes in the first paragraph.
“. . . the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.”
At other times, the author seems to zoom in on what Strike is doing in detail, cataloguing each move, so that it takes paragraphs to search a few handbags. This is done very deliberately.
It is a quiet book with a gumshoe tracking down leads methodically. The strengths are in the characterization and the smooth writing that draws you on through the story. It’s not a cozy mystery but it’s not a pulse pounding thriller either. It’s a solid mystery in a rather traditional style with a modern setting.
She wraps things up so neatly too. We aren’t even left wondering about Strike’s leg, we know he is finally getting the help that he needs.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery and look forward to the next one.