Wayward Kitsune

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith This review first appeared on my blog at: Thoughts and Pens.

Being JK Rowling’s first crime adult novel, I must say that she’d done an impressive job on this one. The Cuckoo’s Calling has managed to render me awestruck for a moment or two before I accepted two things: 1. Sherlock’s still the best sleuth in town and 2. Cormoran Strike didn’t manage to dislodge Professor Robert Langdon from occupying the number 2 spot in my heart. The Cuckoo’s Calling was an entertaining read but it didn’t have the brilliance of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons series (esp. Da Vinci’s code) nor Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Well, I also have to consider the fact that crime fiction/ mystery is certainly an overdone genre and the market competition is stiff. Let’s just say that, The Cuckoo’s Calling barely managed to disentangle itself from the same old detective story.

The Cuckoo’s Calling follows the story of Cormoran Strike, a former military police under the Special Investigation Branch who started a detective agency after he lost half a leg in the Afghan war and to settle down with his fiancée, Charlotte. However, luck was scarce for him and before he realized it, his agency is already on the verge of bankruptcy, his lovelife ruined and he was practically homeless. But when Lula Landry, a famous black supermodel, died, Cormoran was given another chance at bettering his life by solving the mystery surrounding the model’s death.

I admit that The Cuckoo’s Calling story didn’t pique my attention. If it wasn’t for the fact that JK Rowling wrote it, I would have never shelled out the money to buy it. The story’s just too common that I would have preferred re-reading HP but hell, curiosity has won and here I am having difficulty on writing this review. As I’ve said in the previous paragraph, The Cuckoo’s Calling was entertaining and surprisingly, thought provoking. Let me enumerate the strongest points of this novel.

1. Characters- Who would ever accuse JK Rowling of creating shoddy characters? IMO, character creation is her forte. As with Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling involved a lot of characters from the leads to the witnesses to the suspects. Unlike with other books, The Cuckoo’s Calling never made me feel confused or dizzy by distinguishing one character from the other. JK Rowling really made an effort to set each character apart. She was able to relay the story of each of these characters without resorting to intolerable infodumps. Just by reading the characters’ conversations, I could pretty much discern their personalities.

Speaking of the two leads, Cormoran Strike is definitely a layered character. All throughout the whole story, he kept me curious as to what his true nature is. I would save my assessment of him for book two’s review. Meanwhile, Robin (I really wished that I’ve seen a lot of her in this book) is definitely a strong female who is compassionate and focused on pursuing what she wants.

2. Plot- Though somewhat predictable, the story was absolutely tightly woven and riddled with complexity. While I was still at page 40ish or 50ish, I already have a burning suspicion that –insert name here—would be the culprit but I didn’t have any idea on how will Rowling construct the pieces of information to keep the story engrossing until the end. And she didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of red herring thrown into the story that had me thinking vigorously. Despite identifying the culprit during the early stage of the story, I was still shocked to have my suspicion confirmed. The manner of revelation was simply mind blowing.

3. Manner of Writing- No nonsense. Straightforward as crime fiction should be. And yes, I saw JK Rowling’s brand of humor here and there.

4. Providing the story a very realistic touch- I may not have enjoyed The Casual Vacancy as much as I thought I would but it didn’t stop me from appreciating the kind of message it conveyed. TCV had been perfect when it portrayed the two faces of human nature, the good and the bad. It was very honest. And I saw that in this novel.

5. Multi-racial casting- Like HP and TCV, JK Rowling has once again presented a cast of characters coming from different races with The Cuckoo’s Calling.

The Bad

1. Description- This is just a minor issue for me. For some reason, JK Rowling has a tendency to describe her characters using words intended for middle grade. For example,

Detective Inspector Roy Carver’s temper was mounting. A paunchy man with a face the colour of corned beef, whose shirts were usually ringed with sweat around the armpits, his short supply of patience had been exhausted hours ago.

I couldn’t stop smirking after reading the “corned beef” adjective. Reminds me of Ron who hated the stuff. And it makes wonder whether corned beef has played an important role to JK’s personal life. Hmmn.

2. Third Person POV- Unlike others, I am very much comfortable reading books using the 3rd person POV. But I would prefer for The Cuckoo’s Calling to be told using the first person POV. There were a few moments when I got confused in following the characters’ train of thoughts especially when they’re talking together.

3. Predictable- I would have been totally invested if not for the few predictable bits and pieces I found in the story.

To conclude…

The Cuckoo’s Calling, despite its few downfalls, is a complex tale of murder interwoven with sensitive realistic themes that would be immensely enjoyed by crime fiction junkies. I am looking forward to reading the next book of the series.