The CUCKOO Is CALLING for You to Read This Hardboiled Mystery Novel

Famed supermodel Lula Landry has plummeted to her death from her third-story balcony in what the police assume is a suicide. But three months later, her brother John Bristow seeks out private detective Cormoran Strike and presents some compelling evidence that Lula was actually murdered. Strike is warily convinced, but he desperately needs the money and so enters this world of models, designers, and film producers to discover the truth.

book-articleInlineBy now we all know that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. So much of the novel’s form and voice is reminiscent of Rowling’s writing (including the 5-part division that mirrors The Casual Vacancy); and Calling is filled with Rowling’s Dickensian character names—Rochelle Onafide, Freddy Bestigui, Kieran Kolovas-Jones. (Of course, it’s easy to see the similarities knowing Galbraith’s identity, but those few who read the book before his true identity leaked had no idea Rowling was behind it.) That being said, a hardboiled mystery novel would be a natural extension of Rowling’s writing abilities considering all the great mysteries that filled her Harry Potter series.

Strike is a likable yet gruff protagonist with an intriguing backstory that is slowly revealed throughout the novel. More amusing is his temporary secretary Robin who fancies herself a detective as well, donning aliases and scouring the internet for clues (if you’ve ever wanted to be a sleuth, then you’ll easily identify with her). In fact, all of the characters in the novel are striking in their own way. Rowling vividly describes these characters while attributing recognizable accents and speech patterns (you’ll be thinking in a British accent by the time you finish this book).

The biggest problem with the novel is its length. At 450 pages, it seems to be exceptionally long for a mystery novel. But Rowling’s sprawling style is entertaining enough that you never really get bored reading it. It is also very dialogue heavy with so much of the story being revealed by Strike’s interviews with the various people in Lula’s life. Some find that problematic, but I greatly enjoy dialogue scenes and found it very enjoyable. (Until the end, when the dialogue-heavy climax feels clichéd and lazy.)

The style of The Cuckoo’s Calling is more reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Dashiell Hammett as opposed to contemporary crime fiction. It has a nostalgic air that adds to its appeal. This is the kind of mystery novel that would suck in many a reader, even those disinclined to read mystery/crime fiction.



J.K. Rowling’s New Adult Novel Won’t Leave You Feeling VACANT

J.K. Rowling’s latest tome isn’t a book about a young wizard but instead about the political machinations of a small British town. Doing her best to channel contemporary British author Zadie Smith (a great choice of a writer to emulate), Rowling’s novel tackles class, race, and ethics in this small community of characters. Despite her efforts to make The Casual Vacancy an adult book (which it certainly is), it is the group of adolescents that provide not only the backbone for the story but also the more compelling characters in the story.

13497818When beloved Barry Fairbrother dies, a casual vacancy is left open on the parish council. As the citizens of Pagford scramble to find a replacement, a malicious campaign for the vacancy ensues. And as The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother mysteriously begins posting rumors on the council website, some of these characters’ darkest secrets are exposed.

The sheer number of characters in this novel makes starting the story feel almost exhausting. Being in such a small town, they are all linked to each other, which makes it both difficult to grasp at first but also easier to keep track of them all later in the story. Fortunately, unlike other long novels, Rowling starts advancing the story early, making it much easier to get engrossed in this sprawling novel. She has also populated Pagford with engaging characters whose eccentricities build up to a terrific boiling point.

While at times Rowling’s intricately detailed story may feel exhausting, it becomes clear she knows exactly where the story is headed, effortlessly leading you to the climax. She’s able to weave her complex story through various character perspectives that jump not only through each chapter but sometimes within the chapters themselves (sometimes requiring a very close reading as she jumps around a large gathering). All of this works in your favor as you reach the very rewarding ending.

I’m hopeful that Rowling will continue to write these adult-oriented novels as she continues to develop her writing voice (a few of the techniques she uses throughout the novel prove that she has a lot to offer). I’m also hopeful that the upcoming BBC miniseries adaptation will prove to be an equally complex and engaging story, bringing to life these great characters.