A few days ago I finished reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith. I was not among those who read it before JK Rowling was outed as the author behind the novel, but I did snap it up the moment the story of her pseudonym broke.
I had been itching for a good crime series to read but jumping into an established series can be daunting. Just ask anyone who is trying to catch up to Game of Thrones by plowing into A Song of Ice and Fire. That left The Cuckoo’s Calling to serve as a double bonus for me: not only was it by JK Rowling, one of my favorite authors, but it was also the start of a mystery series focused around a private detective.
At this point I’m not convinced there isn’t a genre Rowling can’t write since the power of her writing transcends genre, though I am waiting for the day she tackles science-fiction. Her characters are what makes her novels so compelling, they’re what make Harry Potter as great as it is. The same is still true with The Cuckoo’s Calling, featuring Cormoran Strike as a down on his luck private investigator providing a believable hero. Supporting characters are not left out either, as they are a well developed and diverse bunch, providing a colorful background cast to showcase Strike.
While the story is slow to begin, this is made up for by Rowling’s wonderful character establishment. The supporting characters are numerous, and each are given their own moment in the spotlight. Much of this is provided as a series of interviews with Strike as he investigates the suspicious death of a supermodel, at the behest of her brother, months after the police had declared her fall from her second floor condo a suicide. Notable mention goes to his temporary assistant Robin (the Batman joke is referenced by Strike himself) who serves as the surrogate for the reader.
Once the plot begins moving forward, picking up speed about 2/3 of the way through, the reader begins to see glimpses of Strike’s investigative brilliance. Once the conclusion has rolled around it becomes clear that Cormoran Strike was one step ahead the whole time, ahead of both the villain and Robin, and by proxy, the reader.
The only gripe I have with The Cuckoo’s Calling does not stem from the story itself. Instead it lies with the way JK Rowling writes. She has a love affair with adverbs, making her novels far more descriptive than need be. I can’t fault her that much in this regard given that she began writing for children and is only now transitioning to writing for adults so some of the over description should expected, but as someone who detests adverbs they jump off the page at me.
Overall I was impressed with The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I would say it was an improvement over The Casual Vacancy. Given that a sequel has already been slated for publication in 2014 I expect a bright future for Robert Galbraith and Cormoran Strike. I am looking forward to more.