Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by J. K. Rowling

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-callingHorror in the form of deceit and revenge is revealed in J. K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling. Rowling chose to use the pen name Robert Galbraith because, as an article from BBC News states, she wanted to “publish without hype or expectation” and receive “feedback under a different name.” According to the BBC article, an editor at Orion Books actually turned the novel down because it was “quiet.” And though the novel may not have a lot of action, after just a couple pages, I was hooked in the layers of un-cumbersome detail and vivid characters.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an exhilarating detective story. The novel centers around Detective Strike, a detailed-oriented war veteran, and the mysterious death of supermodel Lula Laundry, also known as ‘Cuckoo’. Even though the police concluded Laundry’s death was suicide, her brother, John Bristow, is convinced that it was not. Between Strike’s debt, over-protective sister, famous yet absentee father, and selfish ex-fiancé, Strike needs a case. And so Detective Strike re-opens an investigation, and enters the extravagant world of famous designers, supermodels, rappers, rock stars, and social climbers.

The list of suspicious activities and eclectic people surrounding Laundry begins to grow very subtly. There is a druggie boyfriend, a racist uncle, a hateful neighbor, and a gold-digging friend from rehab. The neighbor’s wife, Tansy, swears that she heard an argument from inside her apartment and saw Laundry fall past her window, but the police discredit her story, claiming she couldn’t have been in the right place to hear anything. The police found no connection with the mysterious street camera footage of two men running from the scene of the crime, but one of the men is wearing the custom hoodie left as a gift in the apartment below for the new inhabitant arriving that evening. As Strike interviews and speaks to the people connected to Laundry, it becomes more and more evident that there was indeed foul play.

Seduction and manipulation are key themes. We also get some insight into what life in front of the cameras might be like. As we find out, envy poisons the weakest of minds to do horrible things. As Deeby Mac says when questioned by Strike, “That’s what envy does, my friend. The motherfuckin’ press chased her out that window…She’s getting peace right now.” As Strike reflects, this is a profound insight, and as we realize later, foreshadowing. Rowling is incredible at leaving clues. Usually it is easy to guess who the murderer in a story will be, but not in this story. Even as I was guessing what the surprise factor would be, I was shocked when I found out who it was. But I didn’t feel cheated, because all the dots just made perfect sense at the end.

I had been craving a good mystery novel, and usually cannot find thrilling stories with such mature themes. I picked it up because I enjoy J. K. Rowling’s intelligent yet accessible style of writing, and because I am a big Harry Potter fan. People who do not usually read detective stories may at first be weary of the book’s length, as I was, but it proves to be a captivating, quick read.

Buy the book as a present for someone, or better yet, buy it as a present for yourself too. It is well worth the read.

Laura Palosaari