The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith i.e. STEALTH JK Rowling

There are days where I feel like I am drowning beneath a tremendous pile of exciting books. Do you ever have those days? I did on the day my library emailed me to say my hold had come in on The Cuckoo’s Calling. (Advantage, incidentally, Louisiana. I would have been like the 150th person on the hold list for the New York ebook copies. My home library got me a copy within twenty-four hours. I’m just saying.)Β The Cuckoo’s Calling came in, I started reading Patrick Ness’s forthcoming book More than This, and I got approved for three AMAZING (-sounding) nonfiction books on NetGalley, and I have this epistolary novel my mother gave me that I’ve been saving as a treat, and I finally got a copy of the last Eva Ibbotson romance I haven’t read yet. Phew.

Well, anyway. Here is JK Rowling’s stealthy new book (Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) that she wrote under a pseudonym like the Stealthiest Stealthmaster in all of Stealthland. Except not really, I guess, because one of her lawyers sang like a canary (jerk), and now her publisher can finally tell everyone that it’s publishing JK Rowling’s new book.

The beginning: When supermodel Lula Landry falls from a balcony to her death, her adoptive brother is desperate to prove it wasn’t a suicide. He hires military-man-turned-PI Cormoran Strike, along with Strike’s temporary secretary Robin, to find out the truth. Investigating ensues.

The end (highlight blank spaces for spoilers): I felt very lawless reading the end of this one! I never read the ends of the Harry Potter books — well, almost never. I read the end of Philosopher’s Stone, and I did peek at the end of Half-Blood Prince to check whether Ginny was going to be okay. And I went forward a few pages sometimes inΒ Deathly Hallows to check when Ron was coming back and whether Hagrid was all right. But never apart from that! It felt like a smidge like I was betraying some long-held principles, but per usual I read the end because I was tired of not knowing what the endgame was going to be.

So the answer is that the brother did it, and hired Strike in the hopes that he would pin the murder on someone else, which doesn’t seem like the greatest strategy, but never mind. I am not the boss of murderers.

The resolution to the mystery — does not completely resolve my frustration. I am enjoying this much much much more than I did Casual Vacancy, and at the same time I feel like it’s taking an unconscionably long time to set everything up. Actually, though, that’s JK Rowling, isn’t it? Now that I’m thinking about it? Philosopher’s Stone takes for damn ever to put the mystery in motion (which is why I read the end), and there really is a longish period in her other books in which clues for that book’s mysteries don’t get dropped much at all. You don’t notice so much because the world-building is so stellar, and also because there is Neville to fuss over.

Interesting. I learned something today.

The whole: I have been on record about my general impatience with world-weary divorced private eyes. Apart from Veronica Mars, noir is very much not my thing, and it’s hard to have a private eye in a shabby old office without its feeling noirish. But by the end of the book, I was rather attached to Strike. I liked it that he was impressed with Robin — the way to my heart, as always, is for a character to admire another character. Particularly, I was pleased that when he got drunk and was out with Robin, he didn’t say anything creepy but was just like, “You’re nice.” (Drunkenly.) Hooray!

To the rest, once the mystery kicked into high gear (which took A WHILE), it was a lot of fun. Galbraith #coughRowlingcough# has fun with a long-form late-in-book misdirect about the identity of the killer. I love a long-form JK Rowling misdirect. See also my ongoing correctness in re: Snape. The final confrontation scene in The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent scene of its type, if you don’t object to the sort of “Then you X and when Y happened you Z” type of scene at the end of a mystery novel. I personally do not. I like them, although not as much as I like “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here today” scenes. Those are the best.

As JK Rowling shows to best advantage when developing characters over a period of time, I’m excited for the second and subsequent books in this series. I’m hoping that Strike’s world can develop more as the books continue. I would like to see more of Robin’s life aside from wanting to be a plucky girl detective (although it is awesome to be a plucky girl detective!), and I’d like to learn more about Strike’s friends-and-relations and how they engage with his life.

In short, despite some hiccups as the plot gets going, I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’m excited to see how the series develops.

Note: If you buy a book through one of my affiliate links, I get a small amount of money.

  • Nice review, Jenny! I was surprised when I read the news that Rowling has written a crime novel under a different name. Glad to know that you enjoyed reading it. I had sort of given up on Rowling after reading ‘The Deathly Hallows’ (I must be one of the minority of Harry Potter fans who didn’t like this last volume) and when I read ‘Tales of Beedle the Bard’ and didn’t like that much either, I was unhappy. When I saw that ‘A Casual Vacancy’ got only lukewarm reviews, I didn’t bother to read it. So it really pleases me that ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ is good and PI Cormoran Strike is a cool character and Robin looks quite interesting (she reminds me of Hermione). It looks like this series has a lot of excitement in store in the future. I will look forward to reading it. Thanks for the review.

    • Gin Jenny

      Aw, you didn’t enjoy Beedle the Bard? I thought it was lovely and sweet, with Dumbledore’s annotations and everything. But I can see how it wouldn’t be for everyone, I guess.

  • So jealous about your stack of great books! (especially that PATRICK NESS book! – stamping feet).

    I don’t mind world-weary divorced private eyes so much as long as they are also not devastating good looking (despite constant drinking and junk-food ingestion) with unbelievably handsome/gorgeous work partners and/or clients who can’t resist them.

    • Gin Jenny

      Oh good, well, he’s not devastatingly good-looking or irresistible to women. So you are safe.

      The Patrick Ness book is SO GOOD.

  • I’m on a waiting list for this (but not 100 people long… the list itself is 30-something strong, I’m 5th in line, and my library just got a couple new copies to help move the list along).

    I completely relate to the drowning in books feeling… it always seems like when I have books reserved at the library that they all become available at once, and it happens most frequently just after I checked out ten books the week before and thought I had my reading schedule all lined up.

  • I’m still torn about whether I’ll try The Cuckoo’s Calling. It’s just generally outside the realm of my interest. I started reading More Than This last night. 50 pages in, it’s not doing much for me. How about you?

    • Gin Jenny

      PERSIST. You should persist. I recommend persistence. It takes a while to get going, but the pace picks up significantly about a third of the way through. If you don’t want to persist that long, I understand, but I did feel it was worth it.

  • My first thought was along the lines of “J.K Rowling writes not Harry Potter? Eh … I don’t know…” People like me, I am sure, make her cry bitter, pseudonymous tears.

    But I’m actually rather fond of world-weary private eyes. Perhaps I’ll give it a try.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahahaha, she probably does weep to hear things like this. But oh well! The Harry Potter books were such a unique phenomenon, it is no surprise that that cannot be replicated.

  • Poor old JK Rowling. She does do that character-development-over-time thing well and now she’s got to do it in the blaze of publicity again, when I suspect she might have much preferred figuring it out like any other normal author. I have to say that I am right with you when it comes to the ‘I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here today’ scenes – they ARE the best!

    • Gin Jenny

      I know, bless her. Must be rough.

      My life would be perfect if one day I could do a “I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve called you here” dinner.

  • I’ve read a couple of good reviews, and I’m pleased that Rowling may be able to continue her writing in a new genre. She doesn’t need to, but I like that she wants to.

    • Gin Jenny

      Me too! And I hope she carries it on. I love her.

  • I can’t stop laughing whenever I picture her publishers on their knees, weeping with joy over the lawyer’s inability to keep his mouth shut. *hiccups* *snorts*

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahah, yeah, I can’t imagine how maddening it must have been to have to sit on that information for so long.

  • I am under just the same overwhelming pile of squee-worthy reading! It’s a good problem to have, but it’s making me crazy.

    I always attributed what I considered the Harry Potter slow-build problem to the fact that each book was structured specifically around a school year. The pacing couldn’t change much, and there had to be big stretches of not much happening, because the book started at the beginning of the year and then ended at the end of it. It’s interesting to see that this is happening in a book without that imposed structure.

    • Gin Jenny

      I’m on the other side of mine now, and I’m trying to get back that feeling of excitement about my books. Luckily Marisha Pessl’s new one is coming out later this month, so I’ve got that to look forward to.

  • JKR is a literary magician.

    I would love to see more of Robin as well, I would like to see her as less of a sidekick and more of a partner in detective solving. No romance though.

    • Gin Jenny

      Yep. I agree with all of that. Absolutely no romance whatsoever.

  • I want to read this, but I’m annoyed with myself that the only reason I want to read it is because it’s JK Rowling. When I heard about the book months back, it interested me zilch but now that I know it’s one of my favorite authors of all time, I feel compelled to pick it up. But I’m conflicted because I dislike myself for this. I’m glad you liked it though. πŸ™‚

    • Gin Jenny

      Aw, I don’t think you need to be mad at yourself for that! Honestly, it’s not a book I’d have picked up either, if it weren’t an author I like. I’m not such a huge fan of private eyes.

  • I am a little iffy about this book. I read a couple of blog posts where there was a discussion about her using a pseudonym and also an entirely fake identity where it says the book was written by an ex-military man and so on…

    I don’t remember where I read it, but is that the case with your copy of the book? I am ok with the use of a pseudonym but claiming a fake bio is another thing altogether.

    Also, the mystery/thriller genre is filled with very talented writers and it’s pretty competitive I think, so am not so sure about how Rowling is going to fare here.

    • Gin Jenny

      Yeah, I know, I thought the fake bio was a bit much. I suppose she wanted to very much redirect attention away from herself…

  • I was wondering if I should bother trying this, b/c as much as I love HP FOREVER, I couldn’t make it through The Casual Vacancy. AND mystery isn’t usually my thing. But I’m intrigued by the sound of Strike and a plucky female detective, sooooo maybe I’ll join the cool crowd and try it out.
    Great review!

    • Gin Jenny

      Of course you should! Just to see. And then if you don’t like it, you’ll know not to read any more. Casual Vacancy was really not very good. This is better.

  • Great review. Especially like how you blanked out the identity of the murderer. I didn’t cheat, though it was tough to resist!
    Always thought that JKR would deliver as a mystery writer, even during the HP days. She has this natural elan as a storyteller, and super plot development.

    • Gin Jenny

      Thanks! πŸ™‚ JKR is a good mystery writer. She’s also just so good at characters — I’m excited to see more of these characters and what else is going on in their lives besides solving mysteries.

  • Just a note to say hello and that I thought of you when I almost (ALMOST! but did NOT) read the end of The Orphan Master’s Son when I was about 25% through it. I don’t know – is that too late to jump to the end? Do you have a typical percentage spot when you usually skip to the end? Anyway, I’ve been reading your posts on the iPad and I can’t highlight your spoilery parts which is probably a good thing. I also don’t like to comment with the iPad so do know – I’m a fan of your blog! xoxoxox

  • Stella Bee

    I have a couple questions. Maybe other readers of “Cuckoo’s Calling” can shed some light:) I really enjoyed the book but while reading, a couple things bothered me. The one thing that really jumped out at me as being a bit forced and out of nowhere was when Strike goes into the wardrobe of Lulas mother and finds the will in the lining of the purse. I guess u could make it work by saying he suspected that would be the case…maybe??? It just sort of seemed too easy. And the other question I asked myself at the end is why in the world John Bristow hired Strike in the first place…he would have gotten away with the murder if he hadn’t hired him to investigate. I mean, I just don’t get that…even tho Bristow was a madman, it still doesn’t make sense! Lastly, JKR never explains the “…fly in the ointment… .” But I assume that is referring to Strike’s feelings for Robin, correct? Hope I can get some clarification/feedback here:)

    • Gin Jenny

      Yes, why DOES he for heaven’s sake hire a private investigator? That is an insane thing to do and I do not feel satisfied in my
      mind about why it happens. Maybe other commenters will have some ideas…