When Robin is given her next temp job, she wasn’t expecting to be fulfilling her childhood dream of working for a PI and she definitely wasn’t expecting down-on-his-luck Cormoran Strike. Strike wasn’t expecting another temp, and with money running low he doesn’t see how he’ll be able to pay her, but then John Bristow, adopted brother of tragic supermodel Lula Landry, arrives with questions about his sister’s apparent suicide.
I haven’t read a detective novel since my first year of university when I took a class on detective novels, so when I heard that J. K. Rowling had written The Cuckoo’s Calling the first thing I did was purchase my copy. Okay, my review may have a slight bias to it considering my life has been irrecoverably changed by Ms Rowling and her words, but even so I would like to offer my recommendation of this book despite it being my least favourite of all of her novels.
Rowling follows many of the conventions of a detective novel, but I feel she fleshes out her characters in a way that the old hardboiled novels did not. Strike has both emotional and physical scars. Several of her characters have mental disorders. They’re creatures of their surroundings instead of being unaffected by them.
This is something that I’ve found that Rowling always does well. Rowling understand that people and thus characters don’t exist within a vacuum. They’re affected, created by their surroundings: by their social class, by the people who raise them, by the events that occurred around them. I feel like she only brushed the surface of this in Cuckoo’s Calling unlike in The Casual Vacancy where the theme of social classes took centre stage.
Other themes she brushed across include racism and the identity difficulties faced by adopted children and particularly black children in white households. I wish this topic had been dealt with more in-depth. Sometimes I’m impressed with how Rowling can cover so many issues, but other times I get disappointed by how little she goes into these topics. Then again, if she did, I’m not sure how much room would have been left for plot, so I guess I understand.
They mystery itself was satisfying. I guessed the ending early on though I didn’t really believe it could be the truth. All the clues were there, so the big reveal didn’t feel fake or forced or as if the detective had been hiding something from the reader, which is the worst thing when it comes to stories with any kind of mystery/reveal.
All in all, I’d recommend this book to older readers. Friendly reminder that this is not Harry Potter (as nothing will ever be Harry Potter), and the sex, violence, etc. is not framed in a way for young readers. Older readers however will be in for a comfortable yet gritty read as they fall into another beautifully crafted story by dear J. K..
Don’t just take my word for it!
“This novel has all of the star qualities of Stieg Larsson’s novel and BBC’s Sherlock.” – Scott Reads It
“It is no Harry Potter, but it is engrossing.” – Watching the Words
“It’s a cut above your average mass market crime fiction writing-wise – J. K. Rowling still has that efficient turn of phrase – but I do think that there are much better literary crime books available.” – ‘Ow Am Yau