The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

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I am a ridiculous person. I’ve owned The Cuckoo’s Calling for a long time now, because I found it in hardcover for like $2. But then I requested it on Overdrive one night (no real reason why), and then it became available, so THEN I finally read it. Very silly, Sarah. Anyways, I finally started J.K. Rowling’s new series! Which I guess isn’t so new anymore, since the second book is already out (The Silkworm) and the books are going to be made into a BBC show. But still.

Cormoran Strike is a P.I., whose life seems to be crumbling around him. His debt collectors are after him. He’s broken up with his gorgeous girlfriend, this time for good, so he’s living in his office. He has a new temp, Robin, starting that he can’t afford to really pay. And then in walks John Bristow – brother of the famous supermodel Lula Landry, who was found dead outside her apartment. Her death was ruled a suicide, but John doesn’t believe that she jumped off of her balcony, and he’s willing to pay Strike handsomely to find the murderer. Strike doesn’t believe that Lula’s death was a murder, but he agrees to take the case.

In the end, I really liked the book. Cormoran really grew on me, and Robin as well, though not as much. (The introduction to Robin was her walking around being constantly distracted by her awesome new engagement ring, so it’ll take a bit more to completely recover from that.) Cormoran has some of those typical down-on-his-luck P.I. tropes going for him, but he has his own quirks that make him more “him”. He lost half of a leg in Afghanistan, and has some trouble with that still. His unique parentage is common gossip. He tends to have real compassion for other people. He just forms into this lovable, kind of grumpy old-ish man that I ended up really liking.

One other thing that kind of made me like this book – there were black characters. At first I was concerned, since the first three introduced were either suspected murderers or car thieves. But as the story progressed, more black characters were introduced, one even pretty fully fleshed out. It was refreshing to see more diversity in a book by a white person, in which their ethnicity isn’t exactly the whole point of their existence. In fact, the black characters seemed more real and genuine than some of the white characters – there were a lot of stereotypical mean, rich, white people. I’m not sure if Rowling had any real intentions built around this or not, but it was something that stood out to me. She also had a couple passages that remarked on feminist issues – that awareness and caution that women feel working in close proximity with a man, and how deceased women with any sort of trouble in their lives are written off as just a tragic result of the life they lived, and not afforded the same amount of grief and attention as deceased women who lived “safe” lives. Rowling, man… she just brings SO much to the table when you’re not expecting it.

As a mystery novel, I’m not a good judge. I never see it coming, I never guess correctly who the bad guy is, and this was no different. It was a fun though, and I enjoyed seeing Robin get really excited at the intrigue surrounding working in a P.I.’s office on a high-profile case. I think her and Cormoran will make a great detective team.

And now I’ll leave off with just a couple of the highlight-worthy pieces:

“How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”

“Seven and a half million hearts were beating in close proximity in this heaving old city, and many, after all, would be aching far worse than his.”

I’m excited to read The Silkworm, hopefully sooner rather than later.

~Sarah

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12 comments

  1. I was loving this, right up until the end. I just couldn’t get behind the reveal of who the bad guy was, and unfortunately that left me feeling disappointed in an otherwise great book.

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      1. SPOILERS!!!

        My problem is that I’ve just never seen the “guy who did it hires the detective to cast suspicion elsewhere” plot device used in a believable way. It always seems like it’s more to influence the reader’s opinion than anything actually to do with the story, and I can never believe that they wouldn’t have just been better off not doing anything. Especially when it was already ruled a suicide. So that just really bugged me.

        SPOILERS!!!

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      2. Hmm, maybe? I don’t know… I just remember getting to the end and feeling let down that Rowling took that route. I still want to re-read it though. Maybe I’ll find something that allows me to accept it… or I’ll just be able to enjoy the book more without that surprise waiting for me.

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  2. Knowing how much I LOVE the HP series, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise for me to read: “Rowling, man… she just brings SO much to the table when you’re not expecting it.”

    I have no idea why I haven’t read these books yet. Still haven’t read Casual Vacancy, either, but ONE DAY. More like one day when I’m retired and have nothing but leisure time, but still.

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    1. I tried with The Casual Vacancy, and I gave up 100 pages in. I was bored to tears, and I think I ended up giving away the hardcover in a blog post. So I was REALLY hesitant to try this, especially since I’m not much of a mystery fan, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

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  3. Believe it or not, I kind of DID see the bad guy coming, but that didn’t really bother me. Unless a book is prefaced with a bunch of OMG YOU WON’T SEE THIS COMING figuring it out ahead of time just gives me more of an opportunity to enjoy the journey. Anyway, I’m happy to see you enjoyed it so much. Oh that JK Rowling. She’s the best.

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  4. I liked this one okay when I was reading it, but I think it was a case of reading it at the wrong time …. afterwards I gave it away, but I kind of wish I kept it now! I might have enjoyed it better. And yeah, with mysteries, I NEVER see it coming … lol …

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