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Friday, September 20, 2013

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Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

J.K. Rowling thought she could get away with secretly publishing her latest book under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. But we caught her! As soon as it was revealed that Rowling had published a new book, the sales of The Cuckoo's Calling went through the roof, and you should definitely add to that profit margin. Not to mention the new announcement that Rowling will be drafting a script based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! You've got to get back in full J.K. mode.

I did have mixed feelings about her first departure from Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy. But I was left with no mixed feeling about this one. I loved it, no questions asked.
The Cuckoo's Calling is a good-old murder mystery. Set in London, it follows private detective Cormoran Strike, who is asked to investigate the death of the famous model, Lula Landry, whose death was originally declared a suicide. Through his powers of questioning and observation, along with the help of his temp secretary, Robin, he is able to bring deeply guarded secrets to light.

I'm not a huge fan of mystery novels. I've read a few of Agatha Christie's, but beyond that, the genre normally doesn't interest me. So I was skeptical when I began this one. But I was more than pleasantly surprised. Like The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo's Calling's narrative is very complex; many characters, clues, locations, events, etc. But unlike The Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo's Calling never feels like it slows down. Mysteries have to take their time gathering clues, meeting new people, and forming theories.  And this book does this, but it felt like it moved faster. There's one interrogation after the next, one new clue to discover at each location, one new piece to the puzzle, and only Rowling knows how it all fits together.

And Rowling does an excellent job of keeping the readers from putting these puzzle pieces together but also does a good job of giving them just enough information at the just the right moments. For a long time in the narrative, it's clear that Detective Strike knows more than he is telling. And just when it gets to the point of being frustrating, Rowling allows Strike to drop us a hint and reveal just enough information to satiate our hunger but still keep us coming back for more. 
She also does this with the development of the characters. Their pasts are convoluted and complicated, and they are slowly and expertly shown to us only when the time is right. Here is an excerpt of excellent pros Rowling uses to describe Strike's past relationship.
But they had already tried, again and again and again, and always, when the first crashing wave of mutual longing subsided, the ugly wreck of the past lay revealed again, its shadow lying darkly over everything they tried to rebuild.
When the story reached the climax and I finally learned who the murderer was, I was absolutely shocked. I had many theories, but none of them were anywhere close. But as soon as I knew, it all made sense. Every clue fit perfectly into place. There was no one else the murderer could have been. 

I was so pleased to find that J.K. Rowling's second published attempt at adult fiction was so much more enjoyable than her first. From the beautiful writing to the complex plot, it was an excellent read. Maybe she should channel this Robert Galbraith more often.
The dead could only speak through the mouths of those left behind, and through the signs they left scattered behind them.
Have you read The Cuckoo's Calling? Did you figure out the big twist beforehand? Head over to the forum to discuss!

Title: The Cuckoo's Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Genre: Mystery

Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Male and female readers from Y.A. level and up

Final Rating: Four out of Five mugs of hot chocolate
Think you can solve the case? Use the link below and your purchase will also support the Lone Book Club.

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