For those living under a rock or for more causal readers, Robert Galbraith is a pen name used by J.K. Rowling. This is her first book after the wildly successful Harry Potter series. She adopted the pseudonym, no doubt, to see if her writing alone would sell books, to test a different genre than young adult and to escape the expectations that came attached to her name and the success of the Harry Potter series.
Unfortunately, some numbskull at her publisher could not keep their trap shut and her cover was blown before the book even hit the shelves. I did not read any of the editorial reviews. I am not generally a reader of young adult fiction but I finally relented and read the Harry Potter books long after they came out and loved them. I felt that any writer, who could come up with those ideas, was probably going to write well no matter what they chose to write about.
All that being said, I waited quite a while to read this book. I did not want the experience to be tainted by any expectations from Gabraith/Rowlings previous work. I was not disappointed. As I expected, The Cuckoo’s Calling was a superb read regardless of what name is on the cover.
Set in the present day, a supermodel falls to her death from her balcony in a posh and exclusive London apartment building. It is classed as a suicide but her brother, unable to accept that ruling by the coroner, engages a childhood friend of his brother’s, Cormoran Strike, to investigate. Strike is one of the most interesting investigators I have come across in detective fiction.
Ex British military but the son of an aging rock and roll lothario and a super groupie. Yes, you read that right. His back story is as good as the one he is investigating and could fill a whole book in itself. Creating rich, detailed characters is definitely one of Rowling’s strengths and it shines in this book. Every character introduced is given something for the reader to grab onto and consider.
Into Strike’s life, drops a temporary secretary. For every great detective, an equally great offside must emerge and into his walks Robin Ellacot. A girl from the English countryside, newly engaged and with ambitions, she ends up at Strike’s office for a one week assignment. Robin is no rube however and it becomes quickly apparent that she will be there throughout this book and in any future Cormoran Strike adventures. How could it be otherwise?
What unfolds is an engrossing mystery. Cormoran follows leads provided by the supermodel’s brother and friends. Robin digs around the internet and turns out to be a pretty good sleuth herself giving Strike more to work with. By the end of the book, although Robin is still engaged, you get the feeling that her confidence in herself has built to a level that by the next book, that fiancé may be history. Robin might have been a wonderful country/suburban soccer mom but she wandered into Strike’s world and she will be infinitely smarter and more interesting from here on out.
This is a thoroughly engaging read and J.K. Rowling is a writer who can transcend genre’s. I hope she continues to try different types of novels because I suspect her writing is just that good. I know there is at least one other fictional work besides the new Harry Potter novel out and as much as I enjoy H.P., I hope she does not just fall back on that for a buck and continues to grow her craft.