Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Published under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling is Rowling’s first foray into the detective fiction and with her new venture; she has yet again proved that she is a master of storytelling. Rowling’s book does not put the readers in frenzy; there are no fast paced, mysterious twists at every turn of the book; no use of gizmos or technology to solve the crime, but the good old police work, the use of “gray cells” so to say and this is what makes the book unique in itself. It might also be one of the reasons the book did not fare so well in sales before Rowling’s name was associated with it. Unlike the modern detective fiction, The Cuckoo’s Calling reads more like the 20th century novel and thus, even without fast paced scenes, non-existent technology, the book cannot be kept down.

Reading Rowling’s book is like déjà vu as it transports the readers to the world of Agatha Christie where motives are straight and methods of detection simple.

The novel begins with the fall of famous model to her death from a Mayfair balcony which is immediately classified as suicide by police and media. However, not believing the narrative fed by police and media, her brother employs the services of a not so famous private detective, Comoron Strike to investigate her death. Anything but likeable to begin with, Strike is struggling with his own troubled past and financial crisis and accepts to investigate the case which in his own words “…was probably as thoroughly investigated as anything can be. Millions of people, and media from all over the world, were following the police’s every move. They would have been twice as thorough as usual.” Like Christie’s Poirot, Strike is skilled and organized with punctilious observation skills and a penchant to solve crime, however, unlike him; he is fallen with a bleak future, “Now, he was a limping man in a creased shirt, trading on old acquaintances, trying to do deals with policemen who would once have been glad to take his calls…”

A fallen hero who was once a celebrated war veteran, a flawed human being, Strike is nothing but human, “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.”   

Commencing on a quiet note with the description of Robin, who later becomes Strike’s Watson, the book moves on a rather slow and steady pace throughout.

Not just a remarkable story in itself, The Cuckoo’s Calling is also notable for its characterization and a study in human behavior.

The author moves methodically to hint at the motivations that guide the behavior of every character, “Why would she tell the truth on essential point, but surround it with easily disproven falsehoods? Why would she lie about what she had been doing when she heard shouting from Landry’s flat? Strike remembered Adler: ‘A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous.’ Tansy had come along today to make a last attempt to find someone who would believe her, and yet swallow the lies in which she insisted on swaddling her evidence.

No character is left hanging on the periphery, every character is given a considerable space in the narrative and the author lays all the details in the front of the readers to solve the crime in their own right. A minor character like Rochelle is also described in a great detail, “She was uncompromisingly plain. Her greasy skin, which was the colour of burned earth, was covered in acne pustules and pits; her small eyes were deep-set and her teeth were crooked and rather yellow. The chemically straightened hair showed four inches of black roots, then six inches of harsh, coppery wire-red. Her tight, too-short jeans, her shiny grey handbag and her bright white trainers looked cheap.” Lula Landry is conjured from dead and is portrayed as a real person, “The girl who had typed out these words emerged as a warm-hearted friend, sociable, impulsive, busy and glad to be so;” even compassionate and grateful, “She was trying to connect with something real…It was a case of “there but for the grace of God”. Cuckoo thought that’s what she’d have been, if she hadn’t been beautiful; if the Bristows hadn’t taken her in as a little plaything for Yvette.

Hercule Poirot once remarked during the course of the investigation, “Every one of you in this room is concealing something from me. Yes, yes, I know what I am saying. It may be something unimportant – trivial – which is supposed to have no bearing on the case, but there it is. Each one of you has something to hide. Come now, am I right?” Like Poirot, Strike realises that everyone is concealing something, a trivial detail, “Her tone was flat and expressionless. Strike noticed that, even in this small beginning, she had altered the story she had told the police.” Putting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in which every character has some contribution, Strike finally unravels the mystery.

With Comoron Strike, Rowling has created one of the brilliant and fascinating detectives of the modern times.

Absorbing and captivating, The Cuckoo’s Calling transports the readers to the old world of detection before the advent of modern technology and Strike only relies on his “gray cells” to solve the crime and this is what makes the book unique and all the more fascinating. The book is highly recommended to all the crime lovers out there.

Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

Genre: Crime Fiction

Pages: 550

Rating: 5/5

Buy it from: Amazon Flipkart

About the Author

Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband and relative poverty until Rowling finished the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in 1997. There were six sequels, the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2007. Since then, Rowling has written four books for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction novels The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013), The Silkworm (2014) and Career of Evil (2015).

To quote Rowling

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”

“After all this time?”

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”




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