Author: Robert Galbraith
Publication Date: 4th April 2013 (published by sphere, imprint of Little, Brown – Hachette AUS)
Reminds me of: an episode of Law and Order, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I received a copy of the sequel (The Silkworm) from the company I’m interning at, so I felt it only right to go out and buy the first before I dived into the second. I was so excited to read The Cuckoo’s Calling because I’m a Harry Potter nut, but was well aware it has zero link to Hogwarts: genre wise or plot wise. I did feel kind of guilty only going into the book because I knew who the author actually was, because that was obviously Rowling’s reasoning for writing it under a pen name. So, to make up for it, I vow to review the novel purely on the contents of the book and not any preconceived Harry Potter fangirl emotions.
Galbraith’s protagonist is your textbook detective. Cormoran Strike is a private detective and war veteran. His private life is falling to pieces: his gorgeous girlfriend has just left him, he’s broke, essentially homeless and being forced to sleep in his office. But when John Bristow seeks Strike’s detective capabilities out to investigate his late sister’s death, things get interesting. Lula Landry was one of England’s most famous models and died from a supposed suicide. Early on we begin to doubt she took her own life so the investigation puts all the glitz and glamour under the spotlight.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is your standard textbook crime novel. Our main character is the typical flawed detective, physically and emotionally, who has an uncanny ability to detect detail and attract beautiful women. And that’s my first criticism. He’s a believable character, but he’s not original. He’s already been created thousands of times before. It was in fact his sidekick, Robin, whose storyline had me most intrigued. I wanted to know more about her and less about the person the story is about. There was great potential for Robin’s love life to be turned into its own story – I factor I hope is elaborated in the next book. But I’m not talking about Cormoran and Robin. I’ll be really annoyed if they end up together. So often we don’t know anything about our secondary characters apart from their relationship with the protagonist. Robin got a life out of the office which I really admire Galbraith for including.
But this is also something Galbraith overdoes. We know a lot about everyone. There are so many characters that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. They’re all so different too and they have little linkage to each other, so it’s impossible at times to connect all the dots. Thankfully the big reveal at the end, the part where all the questions are answered and our killer is identified, is succinct… sort of. We don’t need to have remembered each individual person to understand the motive and turn of events that led to Lula’s death.
Overall but, I enjoyed the journey. It would make an awesome movie because it’s so much easier to see all the faces than try and piece together who said what. Strike did keep me on my toes… at times, and it was easy to sympathise with his misfortunes. It was fun trying to guess whodunit and I actually guessed! It was pretty close to the big reveal that I got it, but still.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
If you’re a crime fiction junkie, you won’t find the appeal in this book. It lacks originality and it has a very textbook turn of events and plotline. But if you’re brand new to the genre, then I recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a fantastic way to wade into crime fiction and is enjoyable. Galbraith is an exceptional writer, and has a beautiful way of stringing words together which is a factor that definitely earns its own star.