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April 9, 2014
J. K. Rowling = Harry Potter. Everybody knows that. And that’s why I was so surprised when, part way through Robert Galbraith’s “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, I glanced at the author bio inside the back cover and read the book was actually written by J. K. Rowling, under the pseudonym of Galbraith.
“The Cuckoo’s Calling” is Rowling’s first crime novel. Her plot revolves around the death of supermodel Lula Landry. The police have ruled it suicide; however, her brother can’t believe it and hires Strike to look into the case. Strike’s investigation takes him behind the scenes of the rich and famous…he interviews Landry’s driver, her rock star boyfriend, her cleaning lady, and her makeup artist, among others. When Strike briefly becomes the target of the paparazzi, I felt that Rowling was writing from her own personal experience as a public figure.
Rowling provides the necessary red herrings and plot twists to create a satisfactory story, but she also writes interesting characters. We might only meet Landry through the memories of her friends, but she is a multi-dimensional figure. Cormoran Strike tends toward the “damaged detective” stereotype, but his temporary secretary Robin is a multidimensional character, and their working relationship feels realistic.
If gory crime scenes aren’t your thing, then you’ll like this book. The death occurred during the prologue, and Rowling doesn’t dwell on the details. There is one sex scene, and it happens “off camera” with no details provided. However, there are plenty of f-words flying around, so be warned.
If I hadn’t known Rowling was the author of this novel, I would have never guessed. After her dubious success with The Casual Vacancy, I think she wanted it that way. By writing under an assumed name, she was free to go in an entirely new direction and find success without a whiff of Hogwarts anywhere.
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