Now, from the start I will admit that I bought this book soon after hearing that JK Rowling wrote it. Yes, I followed the masses and did not find the book on my own. But to be completely honest, I don’t think there is any way I would have guessed that JK Rowling wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling.
A crime novel is so far removed from Harry Potter and Hogwarts that I was worried, when my copy finally arrived, that I would be disappointed. You know the story: famous author of amazing book series fails to live up to the expectations of a second (or in this case third) novel. But, my fears were definitely unfounded, especially considering the fact that I read The Cuckoo’s Calling in under 24 hours. If that doesn’t tell you it’s at least worth attempting to read, I don’t know what is. And this is coming from a reader who would never pick up a crime novel usually. Yes, I did read The Casual Vacancy (see my very short post on it from December last year here) and I really enjoyed it and thought Rowling had done pretty well considering it was not fantasy. So I can understand why she wrote this book under a pseudonym just to get away from the pressure. Although I thought The Casual Vacancy was great, this is better.
Now, the story itself. Famous supermodel falls to her death, everyone except her adopted brother thinks it’s a suicide. Enter Cormoran Strike, private detective, hired by the brother to investigate the apparent suicide. Perhaps it’s because I don’t usually read crime novels, but I had no idea who did it, and I certainly didn’t work it out until it was revealed. I’ve read a few other reviews online, and one commented on the fact that part of the genius of The Cuckoo’s Calling is that the reader is led to believe that Strike himself doesn’t think there was any foul play for the first half of the story. Strike begins as sort of an anti-hero, the underdog, who you pity but never really believe he’s a serious detective with any real skill.
Other people his age had houses and washing machines, cars and television sets, furniture and gardens and mountain bikes and lawnmowers: he had four boxes of crap, and a set of matchless memories.
But he, like so many characters in the story, surprises you in the end with his sharpness of mind and accuracy with details:
Humans often assumed symmetry and equality where none existed.
Some reviewers have commented that the book was rather long and at times took its time with impressions of London and people. I honestly didn’t feel this (the fact that I read it in 24 hours is proof of that) and if anything, the descriptions only helped to draw me in. Seriously, if people want to complain about long-winded descriptions, try reading Dickens. Now that guy is tedious.
A part of me wishes I had read this book before knowing Rowling wrote it, just to see if I felt the same. As you can imagine, I am somewhat bias with Rowling being one of my favourite authors. But the fact that I do know in no way diminishes how impressed I am with the The Cuckoo’s Calling, although I definitely respect Rowling even more as an author, knowing that she truly is a talented writer to be able to move so easily between completely different genres. Sorry, gushing over.
In the end, a must read whether you are a Harry Potter fan, a crime fan, or both. Either way, you will not be disappointed.
He had hoped to spot the flickering shadow of a murderer as he turned the file’s pages, but instead it was the ghost of Lula herself who emerged, gazing up at him, as victims of violent crimes sometimes did, through the detritus of their interrupted lives.
9/10 – an excellent, well-written and engaging novel that I could not put down. Thoroughly looking forward to a sequel.