The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, AKA J.K. Rowling is a fine detective novel.
It twists and turns and throws up many false possibilities while hiding the real culprit in plain sight. For once, I didn’t get ahead of the story with a solution until it was being rolled out for the slower detectives like myself. While that’s a good thing, I did need the solution of how Cormoran Strike, the enigmatic Detective with five stars worth of personal baggage to unpack, solved the crime. Even then, I found some of the most pivotal clues and found evidence slightly convenient to hand.
This doesn’t address the elephant in the room – that Galbraith is J.K Rowling’s pen name for this detective series. On its own, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a high three out of five stars, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for going that fourth star. The rating shouldn’t change because the writer under another name has written one of the most iconic series in literature and one of my favourites. I keep feeling the nom de plume is a very clever deceit by Rowling to avoid any comparison, every shock at the language and seedier sides of life that come into play within this tale.
I confess I read this because Galbraith was outed as J.K Rowling and not because I am a fan of the detective genre. My eye for what is well done and what contrivances should be expected, rejected or accepted are not as acute as a true detective fan, but I do know a little of world-building and Galbraith/Rowling brings this in spades. It is a real-world with real people who have emotional highs and lows and this includes Cormoran, who seems as flawed as any of us. I enjoyed the stories of its people and while I probably wouldn’t return for more of the same, Cormoran Strike seems to have a lot of potential for more.
How do you keep writing, and tell your good stories without people comparing every word and each twist of the plot to that of Harry Potter? Perhaps Cormoran Strike could set to work to solve that riddle?
The book has also been made into a series by the BBC - one I plan to try and find.