Robert Galbraith’s debut novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, received moderate success, selling approximatley 1,500 copies (a respectable number for a debut) and boasting blurbs from the Queen of Crime Val McDermid among others. Of course, when the author’s true identity was leaked as none other than J. K. Rowling, sales skyrocketed and Robert Galbraith became a household name.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is an impressive debut; it has the feel of an old-school detective novel set in the modern world. Lula Landry has it all: stunning beauty, immense wealth, and lucrative modeling career. That is, until her apparent suicide. Lula’s brother John does not believe that she jumped from her balcony on that cold winter night — and he calls upon private detective Cormoron Strike to investigate. Strike is pulled into the dizzying world of wealth and celebrity while on the hunt for the killer — if there is a killer at all.
I felt like this book got significantly stronger as it progressed. At the beginning, it felt very run of the mill. You have your broody, down on his luck detective who is also naturally unlucky in love and a bit of a loner. There’s his sidekick in the form of Robin, the spunky temporary secretary who is physically and emotionally lovely, newely engaged, and has long dreamed of the exciting life of detective work. There’s villains, both obvious and less so, red herrings, and the classic ‘I’ve figured the whole thing out!’ conversation at the end. It’s all very Agatha Christie. Yet as I kept reading, the book felt more and more fresh despite these tropes. The dive into the celebrity lifestyle has been done before by books, TV, and film but was excellently done. Strike as a character grew on me exponentially, although my brain decided to cast him as Jeremy Clarkson, ruining some of the effect.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, although the first third or so was a bit tougher to get into. I plan to continue reading the series. Rowling is off to a pretty solid start with this book and I’m keen to see her grow as a crime writer. Of couses, Cormoron and Robin are coming to TV sometime in 2017, and I believe that this book could be really well adapted.