When the first Harry Potter book came out, I, like most pre-teens, devoured it and its sequels. I queued up to get my hands on each book at midnight and then stayed up all night to read it. My parents wouldn’t let my sister and I buy a copy each because that was seen as a waste of money – they clearly didn’t understand the greatness of these books. Or how no 12 year old wants to share with her siblings. The two of us would strike bargains on who could read which book first (in the end she got books five and six but I had seven). I was so excited about Pottermore, because finally I would know which house I belonged in (Slytherin). It was fun and exciting and a feeling I have missed as I have grown older.
So when I heard about J. K. Rowling’s desires to write adult books I was all aboard. I bought and read The Casual Vacancy on the first day it came out. In spite of the seemingly negative reviews that were based on the fact that it wasn’t a kids book (because of the swearing, oh no!), I thought it was a great and thoroughly enjoyable read. I even got to meet her at a signing and shake her hand (insert fan girl scream here) and after I was perfectly satisfied to wait years before she wrote anything else.
Then I heard about The Cuckoo’s Calling. A crime novel written by one of my favourite authors? Don’t mind if I do. Of course, no one was supposed to know that Robert Galbraith was anything other than father of two and an ex-army man. But that’s what happens when lawyers tell their wives who then tell journalists. Surprisingly the journalists will write about it.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is a whodunit in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word – there are no science labs, no trace DNA analysis and no deductions made from anyone’s two-week old dried sweat stains and instead questions are asked and people interviewed. As reader who loves crime fiction I spent the whole time trying to work out who was lying and when (not that I was particularly successful at deducing anything with this book).
On the first page, beautiful and coveted model Lula Landry falls out of her flat balcony, landing on the icy, cold pavement below. She dies. But did she jump? Or was she pushed? Her friends say she was acting strange the day she died and writing something on a piece of paper – could this be a suicide note? But Lula’s neighbour swears she heard Lula arguing with a man moments before she saw Lula fall – can she be believed though?
Lula’s older brother, John Bristow, doesn’t seem to think his sister committed suicide and he hires private investigator Cormoran Strike to find out exactly what happened. There are a few things that we learn very early about Cormoran Strike, his personal life has now become non-existent, and he hasn’t had a paying client in ages. As a result has now been forced to live in his office. Oh yeah, he is also the illegitimate son of a supergroupie and aging rock star, the latter of whom was called the rocking prune by one of my favourite characters (a character whom I will let you read about, and discover all on your own).
Of course Strike isn’t working alone; like every Batman he has a Robin. And Strike’s Robin is actually called Robin. Currently without a permanent job, and recently engaged, she has been sent to Strike’s office from Temporary Solutions, a temping agency which could not be better named. She grew up reading adventure and detective stories so when she finds out what Strike does and what his latest case is, she jumps right in (and is far more adept at getting stuff done than Batman’s Robin I might add).
At the end of The Cuckoo’s Calling, the two of them have developed a lovely friendship which I hope, with all of my heart, doesn’t turn romantic. I love their relationship as it is, plus I want to see what happens with Robin and Matthew, the fiancé who isn’t thrilled that she is working for a man who lives in his office.
The mystery itself – did Lula commit suicide or was she pushed – was so simple to solve, all the clues waiting for me to piece them together. However this is said with hindsight; as I was reading it I had no idea what the truth could possibly be. That didn’t stop me having a wonderful time getting from a to b though.
J. K. Rowling’s style of writing, her use of imaginative language and clever adjectives have always entertained me. I enjoy reading books where ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ aren’t the most commonly used words and I thoroughly love rich and textured descriptions, something she excels at. She gives all her characters, even the minor ones, an added depth and a third dimension. Lula Landry has never been more alive to me than when she was dead and by the end of the book I really wish she could have been popped up, alive and well, to tell her side of the story.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent book, well worth multiple reads and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I found it clever, funny and wonderfully rude. Roll on June and Cormoran Strike’s second outing in Silkworm.