Lula Landry seems to have everything in life. Supermodel stardom. A handsome rockstar boyfriend. Freebies and fans. So why did she plunge to her death over the balcony of her lavish London apartment on a snowy winter night? A suicide driven by the trappings of fame? Or something a little more cold-blooded?
Cormoran Strike is a man who’s life is far from the glitz and glamour of Landry’s life. An ex-military man who served in Afghanistan, he lost his leg to a landmine and is scraping by as a private detective, just broken with his long-term girlfriend Charlotte and is now living out of his own office. But Strike’s life changes when John Bristow walks through his door. Unconvinced by the police’s ruling that his famous sister, Lula’s, death was simply a suicide, he seeks Strike’s help to delve back into the case.
By his side is an unlikely temp called Robin – oh the irony! Quick witted, consistently organised and resourceful, her arrival in Strike’s office as a secretary is timed perfectly as he wades into Lula’s world of excess, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll galore. The two meet every seedy millionaire, vapid model, pretentious designer and the unsavoury underground that comes with the territory to find out the truth.
So what’s my verdict?
Let’s address the giant Cuckoo in the room. Yes this is J.K.Rowling writing under pseudonym of Robert Galbraith but for the sake of an unbiased review let’s put that to one side.
The Cuckoo’s Calling starts out with necessary exposition on the night of the Lula’s death and an introduction to the kind of media circus that surrounded the character her whole working life. We then actually meet Robin first, fresh faced, newly engaged and heading to temp job that will hopefully fill her time until she moves onto something better. She’s a bright character and we can already gather that she’s no fool from the outset. Our introduction to Strike is less than favourable. Battered from his recent break up, balding, with the air of a broken Gene Hunt, he literally knocks Robin off her feet. The two’s unlikely friendship however provides a solid foundation for the story, with Robin providing to the Ying to Strike’s Yang.
The story itself plays out like a classic ‘whodunnit’, I could guess the ending and you will too if you pay close attention. The predictability of the culprit, however, doesn’t detract from the story itself. It’s a bumpy ride, filled with twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages right until the very end.
What I loved most about this though is the huge variety of characters weaved throughout the plot, whether primary or secondary, their voices rang out individually and colour the story immensely. Though Strike is, by default, the main character – and a fantastic one at that, with his initially grisly exterior masking a pained back story of a man who’s had to bounce back more than once in his life – but it’s actually Lula’s voice that rings the loudest for me. The quote below sums up her presence perfectly:
“The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them.”
We never get to know the actual Lula, but the picture built of her from those left behind is so rich that we feel like we do. This is the stand out thing about The Cuckoo’s Calling, the richly woven language, both favourable and grotesque, gives life to this novel.
Now addressing authorship of the book, which I funnily enough downloaded a free Kindle sample before it was announced Rowling was the true writer. Would I have gone on to read it if it wasn’t subtitled with her name? Probably not. Would I have missed out on a surprisingly good novel and be looking forward to reading what will hopefully be a great sequel next year? Definitely. It felt fresh, was much easier to read than The Casual Vacancy, and her subtle commentary on fame is rather telling.
Rowling’s nature to make an audience root for the unlikely hero is demonstrated perfectly with Strike, I felt sorry for him at many points in the book but the ending left me realising that he’s much smarter and much more capable than he looks. Definitely can’t wait to see how his character will develop as the series goes on!
Beautiful Dirty Rich: Lady Gaga; Dreaming With A Broken Heart: John Mayer; The Fear: Lily Allen; Sweet Talk: The Killers; Skyscraper: Demi Lovato; Prodigal: OneRepublic; Everybody's Fool: Evanescence
For lovers of…Ashes To Ashes, or Life On Mars, Dan Brown, Kathy Reichs and JK Rowling (of course!).
This book was reviewed by regular reviewer Ria, get to know more about her here!