I was so scared to read this, honestly. I love the Harry Potter series and had heard nothing good about JK Rowling’s post-HP novel, A Casual Vacancy. But then I heard about The Cuckoo’s Calling, and the great reviews it was receiving. Writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Rowling had me intrigued, and after beginning his book, I was hooked. I read it on all of my tens and lunch breaks at work, and even read in lieu of Netflix.
Rowling’s war veteran turned private detective, Cormoran Strike, isn’t a handsome noir detective full on snappy one-liners and oozing sex appeal. He is proud, stubborn, not the best at communicating, and though his office (and himself) look worse for wear, he is damned good at his job. His new assistant, Robin Ellacott, ends up being the perfect match for Strike, and stays working with him even thought he can barely afford to pay her. Strike is hired by supermodel Lula Landry’s brother to investigate her supposed suicide.
Initially, Strike views this as a cold case and doesn’t want to take it on, but he needs to money, so he begins to investigate. As Strike digs deeper into Lula’s past, her adoptive family, and her well-known actor and drug-using boyfriend, he begins to believe that maybe Landry didn’t commit suicide after all. With assistance from Robin, Strike uncovers the truth about Landry’s death in a plot that was very well executed and actually caught me off guard at the reveal.
I really appreciated that Robin wasn’t relegated to being simply a love interest (she’s already engaged), or merely a sidekick. She proves an integral part of the story and is immensely helpful to Strike, whether he initially realizes it or not. I also like that Strike isn’t perfect but is full of imperfections that make him more realistic and, in my opinion, more likeable. Details like how he doesn’t always take proper care of his amputated leg, his volatile relationship with his ex-girlfriend, his lack of relationship with his estranged father, and his immense mountain of debt create a character that you can find yourself rooting for; he is a perfect underdog.
The detail paid to Harry Potter characters is deftly assigned to Rowling’s detective and everyone he encounters. I was relieved to hear that Strike would become a series of books because his character is one that deserves a long life in literature. The Silkworm, the second Cormoran Strike novel, is also fantastic, and I’m getting ready to read the third Strike book, Career of Evil. Though each Harry Potter book was actually a mystery novel, this more traditional and nuanced type of mystery suits Rowling’s abilities extremely well.
Read them all! So, so good.