Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

I read “The Cuckoo’s Calling” a few months ago, and I wanted to write a review of it immediately. Then the most difficult semester of my collegiate life began, and I had no time to do anything other than study, do homework, go to work, and occasionally sleep. Luckily, I survived the semester, so I finally had some free time to write the review.

MINOR SPOILER WARNING: If you have not read “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” this review may reveal a few spoilers, but I promise not to spoil the ending or any major plot twists.

Several months ago a mystery novel was released by an unheard of British author named Robert Galbraith. This novel was called “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” and it received rave reviews. Many critics remarked that it was amazing how this author could write such a well-written piece on his very first published novel. Of course, not long after the novel gained some recognition and people started doing some digging, it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was in fact J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. At the time that this was revealed, I was in search of a new book to read, and being a huge fan of the Harry Potter books, I immediately went out and bought the book and read it.

As I was reading the book, I noticed some subtle things that seemed reminiscent of the Harry Potter novels. Obviously, the universe of the book and the themes were very different, but the way that Rowling described scenery and just subtle stylistic things like that seemed familiar. However, I doubt that I would have made the connection if I had read the book without knowing that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.

Rowling uses an interesting storytelling technique in “The Cuckoo’s Calling.” The book essentially has two main characters each with their own story, and the reader switches between the two characters points of view throughout the book. The two main characters are Cormoran Strike, a private investigator in London who is also a military veteran with a prosthetic leg, and Robin Ellacott, a young, newly engaged woman who is assigned to be Strike’s secretary by a temp agency. Strike’s story is not only about solving a murder, but he is also dealing with getting over a break up, essentially being homeless, and having no money. Robin’s story is mostly about trying to help Strike with the murder investigation, the struggle between her need of a stable job and her love of working for a private detective, as well as being new to London having recently moved in with her fiance.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot of the novel, but I will say that Strike is hired to investigate an apparent suicide of a famous super model. The investigation also has some connections to Strike’s childhood and the reader learns little bits and pieces about his past throughout the novel. As far as the murder mystery goes, I thought that it was one of the best I’ve ever read. I’m usually pretty good at predicting things like this, and I never would have guessed who the murderer was. I also really enjoyed Robin’s story. She loves working for a private investigator, but she was only assigned there temporarily. Plus, she has other more stable and better paying job opportunities. And even if Strike wanted to hire her long-term, she knows that he can’t afford to pay her a competitive salary. I think a lot of people in their mid-twenties would identify with her struggle between doing something she enjoys and doing something that would pay the bills.

I actually think that “The Cuckoo’s Calling” set up some characters that could work well in a series of novels. This would of course be very different from the Harry Potter series that had a definite finish line. Rowling could just write as many sequels as she wanted to write (a la Sherlock Holmes). There are an endless number of cases that Strike could be hired to investigate, and I think I would like to know more about these characters. For example, I would love to hear more about Strike’s past. If Rowling were to write a sequel, I also think Robin’s fiance (who had a pretty insignificant role in “The Cuckoo’s Calling”) could play a much larger role. I think it could be an interesting dynamic if he was the one that had to hire Strike to solve some mystery.

I really enjoyed “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” but I will say that it is not the most fast-paced book I’ve ever read. There are very few action sequences in the book, and it can feel sluggish at times. If I had to give it a rating, I would probably give it 4 out of 5 stars. Very enjoyable and a great murder mystery, but it is not the kind of book that sucked me in and made me lose all sense of time like I did when I was reading the Harry Potter books.

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