I downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling pretty much like a lot of people I guess, the weekend it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for JK Rowling, I started reading it that weekend but then got distracted by other books. Well I’ve finished it now and it wasn’t half bad, I can see why lots of people were (apparently) saying before Galbraith’s true identity was revealed that they couldn’t believe The Cuckoo’s Calling was a first novel and that Galbraith was probably a pseudonym for someone already published. I particularly liked and agreed with a comment I read somewhere that although terribly sexist is probably a little bit true, that the clothes in the book were surprisingly well described for a man.
For those that don’t know, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a crime novel set in London around the time of the Afghanistan War and Gordon Brown’s downfall from government (I’m curious, was that when JK Rowling actually wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling? I’ve read somewhere that she didn’t stop writing after the last Harry Potter and she had a backlog of several novels she’d already written. Or is there a deliberate reason for setting the, what is surely to become a series, a scant few years in the past, I can get the link with the Afghanistan War, as Galbraith’s main character Strike is a recent injured veteran of the war but soldiers still sadly get injured to the present day, so the novel could have been dated more recently I guess. And then there’s the references to Gordon Brown’s downfall, maybe in the next novel (I think there is meant to be one) Strike gets involved in something vaguely political with the newly formed coalition government, yum I can imagine Rowling doing that well). Anyway, in The Cuckoo’s Calling a virtually penniless and new homeless private detective, Cormoran Strike, is lumbered by accident with a secretarial temp, Robin, for a week, just as a new case comes in. The bereaved brother of a supermodel who had recently committed a high profile suicide, is convinced she was actually murdered and wants Strike to investigate. Strike is pushed into a world he has a very brief passing familiarity with, as he was until recently engaged to a very well off girlfriend and he’s the illegitimate son of an ageing rock star. As he investigates the last few days of Lula, the supermodel’s at the surface glamorous life, he discovers family feuds, unreliable famous boyfriends and the insane pressure of the paparazzi.
So far going on the two adult books JK Rowling has published, she really likes her themes, in The Casual Vacancy it’s very much about the benefits of the social state and the society divide, in The Cuckoo’s Calling it’s about how rich or poor, lives can still be equally miserable and the pressures of the press. JK Rowling’s own personal story is so well known, it is perhaps easier to see how her life has influenced what she writes (you can see it in Harry Potter), there are few novelists I am aware of their personal story, so perhaps I’m reading loads of books where the lives of the authors are obvious in what they write about but as I’m unaware of those authors lives I can’t see it. Or maybe JK Rowling particularly draws on her life and her strong political / social views more than a lot of other novelists? Either way she needs to keep going, we need people, particularly authors with a large audience, to get stories about how society is today, out there.
Anyway, back to the actual book, I’m not a massive crime novel fan, I used to be, when I was in my twenties, but sort of ‘grew out of them’ (actually, I think I find them a little bit scary, in a scarily realistic way, I’d much rather read about zombies rampaging across London than some more random woman getting murdered in the street). But I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling, it was refreshing reading a crime novel about a private detective instead of just another cop and I particularly liked the burgeoning relationship between Strike and Robin. I really hope it’s true that there will be more Cormoran Strike books but what I think I’d really like, is if there’s a TV series, as I was reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I couldn’t help but imagine it as some beautifully shot (you know, one of those limited colour palette, long lingering shots over the London skyline sort of things) two parter.
***(out of 5 stars, but a lowish score probably because I just don’t particularly like crime novels full stop).