Title: The Cuckoos Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Published by: Sphere
Publication date: 13th Feb 2014
Source: Private Collection
When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.
Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . .
I obtained a copy of The Cuckoos Calling from being a Kobo VIP and buying it for the entirety of ‘Two whole English Pounds.’ Part of my incentive to buy this book is because one of the later books in the series has gotten the author in some ‘hot water’ and I’d like to inform myself about it and see what the fuss is all about. But, buying the 5th book in a series is somewhat… silly.
The Cuckoos Calling is the first in the Mystery/Crime series by Robert Galbraith, we’re introduced to feature private Investigator Cormoran Strike through the eyes of his Temporary Secretary Robin. Cormoran Strike is a character with a rich back story. He has been well-developed and the attributes to his personality and quirks are threaded throughout the novel. He grows are the reader invests more time into him. It’s clear that a lot of care has gone into crafting him. I do wish the same could be said for Robin who, in contrast, feels a little one dimensional and conveniently placed. She isn’t a bad character by any stretch, but she doesn’t shine nearly as brightly as her boss when it comes to character creation, despite her positive energy.
Private Detective Cormoran Strike is hired by Lawyer John Bristow to investigate the apparent suicide of his adopted Sister; Lula Landey. Before her death Lula was a very successful and wealthy supermodel that, despite her Bi-Polar Disorder, had a zest for life and an eagerness to discover her ‘real’ family. The official verdict claimed she jumped from her own balcony and committed suicide. A conclusion that didn’t quite ring true with her family.
There is a lot of going back and forth over the same ground with The Cuckoos Calling and at times it felt a bit of a slow-burn reading the same clues over and over from various different people in Lula Landrys life. This is not a book of fast-pace but an thorough investigation into another’s tragic end. Strike interviews people at length and often covers the same ground with them. Asking the same questions. While this could frustrate the reader into screaming ‘Get on with it!’ I found that it helped to build up the case for themselves and try to figure out the important ‘Whodunit.’ I found that the pages flew by in eagerness to learn that next vital, but small, snippet of information that might hold the key to it all.
The Cuckoos Calling has a heavy focus on the characters involved with the tale. And it is each of these characters that drive the plot forwards in their own way by what they do, or don’t, reveal. It’s somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ in it’s investigation methods but I think that adds to it’s unique appeal.
I found the use of characters personal lives a good touch as it broke up the mounting tension of the investigation and turned it towards the formality of the relationship between Strike and Robin. It will be interesting to see which direction their working-relationship takes and what happens to them in future novels.
The aforementioned repetition doesn’t just extend to the details of the case however. I found that certain scenes weren’t really warrented in the novel. I don’t understand why the reader needed to be hand-held through Cormoran going to the local university to have a shower more than once, for example. I also found aspects over-described, how many times do I need to know how hairy someone is?
I am also somewhat confused about the writing style employed in The Cuckoos Calling. To me there seemed to be an overabundant use of commas and semi-colons. Several times I found myself going back on what I had just read as the overly complicated descriptions just didn’t work. It’s the old adage of ‘Why use ten words when one good one will suffice?” I fully admit it took me a while to get used to and it’s not something that I look forward to have to go through again.
Despite my grievances and concerns with the book though, I did enjoy reading it. It was an entertaining debut into the genre for the author with enough of a hook in both plot and characters to keep me turning the pages. I had no idea if the suicide was going to be that or murder and couldn’t even begin to guess who the culprit would be if that was the case. The ending was well thought out and a complete eye-opener.
I am currently undecided if I’ll pick up the second in this series, let alone make it to the controversy in book #5
The Cuckoos Calling is a solid entry for the author into the Mystery/Crime genre with some exceptional central characters and riveting plot. A first class ending that is hampered along the way with an unusual writing style and over-description of unimportant events.