The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
I feel like I haven’t written a review in forever. I mean, I know that isn’t strictly true, I wrote loads of reviews for books I read in August, I guess, I just used to review like every other book that I read and now, I tend to only do it if it’s a review copy or if something has really stood out to me… Which can only mean one thing, this book really stood out to me. In fact, if my good friend Tyler Oakley would like to take the floor, here is an accurate visual representation of me whilst reading this book:
Let me tell ya’ll a bit about this book then, see The Cuckoos Calling was quietly released a couple of years ago, not a lot of people took a lot of notice, it got a few good reviews, a few bad ones…. Nothing out of the ordinary, but then, in what some cynics might say was a publicity stunt, it was ‘leaked’ that Robert Galbraith is in fact J K Rowling, as in Hogwarts creating, magic wielding J K Rowling and instead of bobbing along nicely in the chart, The Cuckoos Calling went zooming to the top and everyone and their cat had a copy. I did buy myself a kindle copy during this mad dash to consume new Rowling, but I made the decision that I wasn’t going to read it until the hype died down because I didn’t want to be impaired by it. Now, having read it, I am happy and annoyed with this decision in equal measure, one on hand, I’m sure the fact that I absolutely loved this book is largely down to the fact that by the time I got around to reading it, it wasn’t a big deal anymore and there was no pressure on me to feel a certain way about it, but on the other, I denied myself the pleasure of this book when I didn’t have to! I chose to read this now because if you’ve been following my progress with the Book Genre Challenge, you’ll know that September is mystery month and although I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, it’s not a genre I read a lot of, so maybe my thoughts on this being a book of genius proportions are wrong and I’ll change my mind once I’ve read a few more mystery novels, but for now, Cuckoos Calling is well good and I am so thankful that the genre challenge gave me the opportunity to finally read it.
Anyway, I said I wanted to get back into reviewing and here I am telling you my life story instead. Get on with it Leah. Honestly.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.
I can kind of understand why Rowling chose to use a different name when writing this, having written Harry Potter, her work must be judged so harshly that it must have been nice to be able to release a book and have it critiqued purely on the basis on whether or not that particular book was good, not whether or not it was anything like the Harry Potter series. Which is something that happened a lot when Casual Vacancy came out. Rowling has a really unique writing style and when reading a Casual Vacancy, I couldn’t make up my mind whether having something phrased the same way with the same tone as a series about teenage wizards was endearing or off putting, I personally wouldn’t have noticed that Cuckoos Calling was by the same person had I not already known that, the same quirky voice is there, but it is more subtle than previous works, it was great, because on the one hand, I felt like I was being let into some private joke, like hahaha, she wrote Harry Potter, but on the other, it didn’t distract from the fact that this definitely wasn’t a Harry Potter novel. That didn’t stop it having the same almost magical quality and layer of intrigue though. Basically, the story is top notch and the way it is told is on par. Having tried to write a mystery before (you can check out my attempt here) I know how difficult it is to tell a story without giving the whole thing away, I think
Galbraith Rowling manages to do just that with way more finesse than I did (obviously) and I hope to all that is holy that there will be many, many more novels about Cormoron Strike solving crimes in and around London.
One of Rowling’s main talents is character building. Her characters are all incredibly rich, which is one of the things that I praise all the time about both HP and the Casual Vacancy, her characters, no matter whether they’re background or foreground, have their own individual motives, personalities and life stories, with the background characters sometimes being much more substantial than the leads in other novels. Cuckoos Calling is no different. Not only do we have the incredibly well rounded Strike, who on top of trying to solve a case has a whole slew of personal issues and many personality traits etc going on (also – I feel like this is a great book in terms of Strikes ‘disability’ I put that in inverted commas, because as you see when reading it, he is not in any way disabled, the fact that he has one leg isn’t even really a minor inconvenience to him, I’ve read very few books where the lead character is an amputee and have heard of even fewer where this is completely normalised and they just get on with every day life… Not sure where I’m going with this point, but I liked it.) we also have Robin, who I think is probably the product of Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley and Cho Chang, if such a combination can be comprehended. Even Lula Landry, the dead girl at the centre of the mystery is brilliantly constructed and 3 dimensional. It’s kind of amazing. I’m insanely jealous of how good Rowling is at that. In fact, the city of London itself played such an integral part of the story, it was almost like that too was a central character and that Rowling gave it just as much thought and characterisation as the people. I like it when that happens. London is my home town, it’s one of my most favourite places, so to see it written in books as being the vibrant, intoxicating place that I see it as being is really exciting for me. Plus, I’ve said before, I’m kinda a lazy when it comes to reading, I like it when books are set in places that I’ve actually been!
I’ve noticed from Goodreads, that many people have rated this fairly poorly in terms of being a good mystery book, like I said, I am a novice when it comes to mystery and crime, but I feel like as a gateway book, this ticks all the boxes. For me, someone who reads a lot of the same genre and experiences many of the same story lines and characters just recycled by different authors, this was a real breath of fresh air. It was intelligent, well written and the characters incredibly real. Whilst reading it, I felt the same thrill Robin did whenever she was undercover with Strike, I felt her excitement and anxiousness at visiting crime scenes and her longing for something more exciting than a regular nine to five office job. I also really like that although Strike acknowledged that Robin was a good looking girl and that he was aesthetically attracted to her, that this wasn’t about two people falling for each other or the fact that they are of different genders getting in the way, the pair worked together really well and proved that men and women in fiction can have a satisfactory platonic relationship and that there is no need for boring and contrived romances to be thrown in for a bit of drama, there was plenty of that going on anyway. I sincerely hope that in the rest of the series (if indeed this goes beyond two books), that Robin and Strike continue to have a friendly working relationship rather than anything else, so few of those are around, we need to celebrate friendships more!
This is a mystery book and this is mystery month, so I guess I should talk a little more about that. I saw a few reviews where people said the book was great until the ending and the case was solved, I myself really didn’t see the outcome coming, maybe I was being a bit slow, but it was a genuine surprise for me, I had to go back and reread the last two chapters again, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. At first, it didn’t make an awful lot of sense to me, but then my A Level psychology, my Foresnsic Science and Criminal Justice course and all the things that I’ve researched into sociopathy came back to me and I realised that it actually did make perfect sense, but maybe wouldn’t to someone who hadn’t already shown an interest in those subjects. If I had to have a criticism on this, apart from the frankly bizarre name of our lead character, the way the solving of the case was explained was probably a bit implicit. Of course, it might be perfect in the eyes of hardened crime readers, but you know… I just think that Strike kept a lot of things to himself which would have been nice if he’d shared.
Wow, I guess I am a little out of practise with this whole reviewing thing.
Anyway, yeah. I liked Cuckoos Calling, it was like well good and stuff innit.