Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling (Kindle Edition)

Posted: April 6, 2014 in Books


Cormoran Strike is a down on his luck detective with creditors to pay, looking desperately for a case to pay the bills. He can only afford a secretary from a temp agency. Robin the temp, is quite intimidated by the size and girth of her new employee, but is nonetheless excited to work for a detective, even a disheveled one. Strike has had quite the interesting life until now, he was the son of British rocker Jonny Rokeby, his mother was one of his groupies. One of Strike’s legs has also been amputated as a result of his service in Afghanistan.

Now, despite the disrepair of his detective agency and life, Strike gets a chance to solve a big case. John Bristow, adopted brother of world famous fashion model Lula Landry, wants Strike to investigate Lula’s murder, the police have already ruled it a suicide, claiming that Lula had emotional problems, and the stress of fame had gotten to her. But if it wasn’t suicide, it was murder. The list of suspects is seemingly endless, was it someone from Lula’s aristocratic adoptive family, jealous of Lula’s large inheritance? Was it a member of her real family, trying to get a piece of that same inheritance? Was it someone from a group of hangers on, who felt Lula didn’t spend enough time of money on them? Was it a fellow model jealous of Lula’s rapid ascent to fame? Was it her on and off boyfriend? Strike aims to find out.

There was a certain amount of curiosity for me in reading this book, I had never read a JK Rowling book and I was intrigued to see what exactly her writing style was, because it had clearly enthralled a generation of kids. I must say early on I found her writing style quite dense and verbose. She uses a lot of words to describe the simplest scene. This might be useful when creating a science fiction fantasy setting like Hogwarts school, or describing a game like quidditch, but it really comes off as unnecessary and redundant when writing a whodunit. Early on, Rowling seems to go over the same circumstances over and over again, with different people going over the same facts, which suggests she was trying to stretch the material, or she’s writing in the wrong genre. I almost put the Cuckoo’s Calling down more than once, but it did get better, the pace did quicken, but the ending was disappointing and unimaginative.

The character of Strike was perhaps the most well-developed, clearly because Rowling took the most time adding facets to his character, he’s a war veteran, with an artificial limb, maybe she added those details to give Strike an air of sympathy, those kind of ploys don’t work with me, although she does write evocatively about the struggles he has putting on his prosthesis and the pain he feels in his leg. I never got a sense of what Strike looked like, except a hairy paunchy guy whose best days are behind him. I kept thinking of Mark Addy for whatever reason. She did not do sufficiently well to describe him physically, and she should have. Rowling gave Strike a gorgeous girlfriend, with whom he had an off and on relationship. More sympathy, pity poor Strike who can’t maintain a proper relationship with a beautiful woman.

I don’t get a sense that Rowling writes minorities particularly well, Lula was a troubled goddess a mix between Rihanna and Iman, perfect physically, siren like, but emotionally unsettled. Guy Some’ was a stereotypical gay black fashion photographer, think Andre Leon Talley from America’s Top Model. Rochelle, a hanger on, is the worst of the stereotypes, fat, ugly, aimless. The whole fashion scene is written in a stereotypical way, populated by pretentious people. Here’s where Strike’s lineage comes in handy, because as the son of a rock star, he can navigate the world of high fashion in semi-celebrity.

Robin is perhaps the most interesting character in the book.   She is the glue that holds the characters together. She is the vox populi if you will, she represents the voice of young Britain. Robin is more than a secretary, she does a lot of leg work and research, and Strike uses her as a sounding board to bounce ideas off. She brings some much needed life to this book. She’s got a questionable boyfriend, and that opens up the possibility of a personal relationship between Strike and Robin. The flowering of that relationship makes plot move along, and also makes the book fun to read.

But a slow start, some conventional and superficial characters and an uninspired ending makes The Cuckoo’s Calling not worth the read.

The Cuckoo’s Calling: Strike One.


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