Review: “The Cuckoo’s Calling”

“Absolutely brilliant.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 6.08.41 PMRobert Galbraith’s novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is abundant with luscious vocabulary. As I read, I repeated his rich words silently, letting their syllables roll off my tongue. Later, I might dare to test out these new words in conversation like a secret or an inside joke. 

Will they notice this new word? Will they know it’s meaning? Will they question my use of it? Or will they just let it slide, a blimp on their radar of what has increasingly become a 140-word-capped society?

Galbraith’s syntax flowed with ease as I quickly devoured the mystery unfolding. To the part-time reader, his decorative speech might have thrown him or her off of the course, unable to decipher Galbraith’s story.

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To me, it’s a familiar magic.

I grew up with these paragraphs rife with extravagant phrases stuffed with palatable words foreign to my tongue. The staccato-like interruption of conversation and thought gives the dialogue a mundane pattern–mundane enough to make a muggle feel like anything was possible. I grew up with the rich character descriptions of Ron, Harry, and Hermione. All it took was the familiar murmur of J.K. Rowling’s bewitching vernacular to conjure up an image dancing in my mind like a photograph come to life in my hand.

Cormoran Strike, ex-military police, is a burly, washed-up private detective. He is the lovable oaf who leaves the reader yearning to despair for him while simultaneously not wanting to hurt the character’s adamant pride.

The only thing I could do was read faster to find out if the giant-like protagonist solves his mystery.

Rowling, under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, unravels a story of deceit and psychosis intensified by the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Following the sudden death of supermodel Lula Landry, Cormoran Strike is set to the task of re-investigating what the police deem a suicide. Add in a Millennial temp who won’t quit and a nervous adoptive brother who begs Strike to take the case, and the main characters of the novel are alive in the reader’s mind. Rowling hardly gives any say in the matter; I feel as if I know the inside of England’s endearingly scrubby pubs after spending a week interviewing ties to the case over pints (and pints and more pints…at one point I began to wonder exactly how much money Strike had allotted to Petty Cash to fund these interviews…).

A surprising connection surfaces early in the novel: the detective has a childlike tie to the deceased’s family. Why would Rowling make this such an important aspect of the story? Not to develop a character–her immaculate writing accomplishes that task clearly. Why was Lula Landry found dead on that early January morning? Why did she jump? Or, why was she pushed?

Unanswered questions multiply as the reader uncovers facts at the same momentum of Strike. I felt myself continuously racking my brain to connect the dots and figure out the mystery before–because I was sure he would–Cormoran lays out the evidence before reader and murderer alike.

Who killed Lula Landry? Does blood money run thicker than the snow melting in the London streets? When push comes to shove, did the Cuckoo jump?

Or did she spread her wings and fly, like Hope, the thing with feathers?

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