Author: Robert Galbraith (who we now know is really J.K. Rowling)
Length: 455 pages
Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: The Indianapolis Public Library
Plot Basics: Supermodel Lula Landry’s, aka Cuckoo to her rich and famous friends, death was ruled a suicide. But when PI and Afghanistan veteran Cormoran Strike is hired by her brother, John Bristow, to look into it, the case could change Strike’s future. He’s plagued by creditors, has been thrown out by his girlfriend and can’t really afford the secretary the temp agency has sent to him. But with Robin, the temp’s assistance, Cormoran starts to dig into the world of high fashion, celebrity and money and the baggage that can be for families.
Banter Points: I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. When I was about 78 pages into the book, I posted my progress on Goodreads. A friend asked, “How is it? and I replied “British.” It was slowly paced with long sentences and lots of talking. It was clear Strike was going talk and limp his way to the end instead of shooting anyone like in a long Reacher book. But. BUT! At some point, in my head, it clicked that this book was far more like Nero Wolfe than a modern mystery and then I realized I was totally hooked and wanted to see how Strike unraveled it all. Also, I had one piece of it figured out (or at least a strong suspicion) and wanted to keep reading to see if I was right.
The relationship between Strike and Robin was refreshing in a detective novel because (SPOILER), it’s not a romantic one! They are ghastly awkward around each other at the beginning and as much as reading for the case, I was reading to see them sort themselves out.
Also, once I understood what the book was, I started reading much more slowly, because Strike was getting all the clues through the conversations recorded. That meant I was getting all the clues and all the talking was the plot. By the end, I was eagerly reading to see how it all unfolded.
Rowling also trod her familiar ground about social classes. Muggles or purebloods, the people on the wrong side of the tracks, or working class versus the celebrity rich, this is clearly the issue she takes on in fiction.
Bummer Points: It’s a good and bad thing that J.K. Rowling got outed at the author of this book. It had received some good praise before she was linked to it, but the truth for me and a lot of other readers is that we would have skipped it entirely. I hadn’t heard of Cuckoo before the news that Galbraith was really Rowling and I consider myself moderately plugged in to the book world’s news and latest acclaimed works. I try to at least know titles, even if I don’t get them read. As soon as I heard who’d really written it, I was putting the book on hold.
And while it’s soared up the bestseller list, it’s probably going to suffer the same fate as Rowling’s other non-HP book, “The Casual Vacancy,” which makes me sort of wish the connection between Rowling and Galbraith hadn’t been made. It’s not ever getting the chance to really stand on its own. As a book by first-time author Robert Galbraith Cuckoo’s Calling was a jaw-dropping debut of detective-orial force. As the 9th published work by Rowling, well, everyone’s going to say how it’s not Harry Potter. Again. You can’t even begin to make that comparison, but it’s certainly happening.
I’m bummed that it took the Rowling connection to get the book noticed. And I’m bummed because now that the connection’s been made, the notice may not be as positive.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Pretend you don’t know anything about Robert Galbraith and read this quiet, gripping novel.