Ever since the news came out in 2013 that new mystery writer Robert Galbraith was actually J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), my husband and I wanted to read his/her first detective novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. I gave it to my husband for Father’s Day last year, and he enjoyed it. I finally found time to read it last month and also liked this intriguing, gripping mystery novel that introduces a new fictional detective.
Cormoran Strike has a lot of problems. Ex-military, he lost his leg in Afghanistan and is still adjusting to his new prosthesis. His fledgling detective business is struggling and down to just one client, and he’s having trouble paying the bills. Worst of all, his long-time girlfriend just left him, and he’s got nowhere to live except his tiny office.
This is the difficult situation that Robin, a new temp worker assigned to Strike’s office, walks into on her first day there. His ex-girlfriend almost knocks her over on her way in (as she is storming out), as does Cormoran, in his attempt to run after her. Finally, sitting at her new (temporary) desk, Robin meets a new client coming in the door. John Bristow is a lawyer whose adopted sister was a famous supermodel named Lula, whose death by suicide was all over the newspapers a few months ago. John doesn’t think it was suicide, though. He remembers Strike from childhood, when he was friends with John’s younger brother, and wants to hire him to find out what really happened to Lula, even though the police already conducted a thorough investigation.
It seems like a losing proposition, but Bristow offers to pay Strike double, and the allure of finally paying off some creditors and getting his business on solid ground is enough for Strike to agree to take the case. Robin, though acting professional on the surface, is very excited. She’s had dreams of being a PI since childhood and here she is, working with a real one…and with a famous celebrity case!
Strike begins his methodical investigation, with Robin’s help, not expecting to find anything but determined to do it by the book anyway. As he gets pulled further and further into the world of millionaires, supermodels, rock-stars, and wealthy designers, the case gets more and more complicated, though it still looks like Lula must have committed suicide. Meanwhile, Strike is trying to do all this work while living in his office, and Robin is dreading when her temporary assignment will end.
Rowling aka Galbraith has set up an engaging and likable duo for her detective books in these main characters. Like many literary PI heroes, Strike has plenty of issues, but he’s a good guy at heart (and very smart) and you root for him to succeed, in both his case and in life. The mystery itself is twisty and unpredictable, just like you want a good mystery to be! There are plenty of clues, dead ends, surprises, and red herrings to keep you guessing, and she has fun with the setting in London in the world of the rich and famous. And, no, I did not figure out whodunit! Galbraith’s first detective novel is a winner, and I look forward to reading more about Cormoran Strike’s detective business.
455 pages, Mulholland Books