Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Page Count/Review Word Count: 449
You might not have heard of Robert Galbraith, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of J. K. Rowling – well, guess what? Galbraith is Rowling’s pen name, an alter ego that she invented so that she could release her crime novel upon the world without people judging it in the shadow of the behemoth that is the Harry Potter universe. It was a smart move on Rowling’s part.
From her point of view, she would’ve wanted to see the first reviews come in, and to read the true opinions of professional critics who didn’t realise that Galbraith, a writer who appeared to come out of nowhere, was actually one of the best-selling writers of all-time. She got her wish, for a while – then the truth surfaced, and sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling went through the roof.
Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t buy my copy until after it had been revealed that Rowling was behind it – it’s not that I don’t like crime novels, I just don’t tend to like crime novels that were released any later than 1950. Here, however, I was pleasantly surprised – I did feel that it started out slowly, but once it picked up pace, there were a lot of reasons to recommend it.
Rowling’s characterisation is top notch, and Cormoran Strike and his temporary secretary Robin are both believable and intriguing; Strike himself is reminiscent of Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, a detective with a distinct personality. And while they’re the primary protagonists, there’s a whole host of supporting characters who are equally believable and well-rounded.
I’m also a big fan of Rowling’s use of locations – unlike the Harry Potter series, which is set primarily in fantastic locations that, despite being juxtaposed with the real world, we’ll never be able to experience, The Cuckoo’s Calling is set in a modern-day London, and Strike’s office is actually above a bar in Denmark Street.
Denmark Street is closer to home to me than for most – I used to work on the street next to it, and I used to browse its music shops on my lunch break. Strike himself, who lost his leg in the Afghan War, goes to rehabilitation sessions at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, the hospital that I literally lived opposite while I was at university.
It helped me to imagine the scenes and the characters in the novel – it might not be the same for you. Either way, this is a masterful detective novel and the first in a series which promises to be one of the best on the market.