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Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

2013 July 16
tags: ,
by pam artiaga

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The weird thing about this book is that I think — I am convinced — that I would have appreciated it better had I not known beforehand that it was written by J.K. Rowling.

This level of writing, characterization, and plot development would have been way more exciting in an author that I haven’t read before. With J.K. Rowling, this brilliance is to be expected and thus not quite as exciting as with an unheard-of author.

The characterization in this novel is amazing. I remember thinking a few times, while giggling over something one character did or sympathizing with another, “It’s a bloody detective novel, the characterization didn’t have to be this good”. In all the Sherlock Holmes stories and that one Dorothy L. Sayers book I’ve read, I’ve never sympathized with the characters as much as I did in these books. I loved Robin from the moment she appeared. I could easily slide into Strike’s point of view. Every single one of the witnesses and possible suspects were formed as real people in my mind, whereas in other detective stories a lot of the supporting characters are only just names to me.

I cannot say much about the plot without giving anything away. All I can say is that I had been completely thrown off. Compare that with the other detective novel I’ve recently read — Dorothy L. Sayers’ Whose Body? — where I already knew who the murderer was about halfway through the book. I really believed I had it with this book too. I congratulated myself at my cleverness, but it was a lot more fun when I realized I was wrong. It was fun because, Merlin’s beard, those red herrings were very clever and well laid. And the best part was that there were hints, both small and anvil-sized, to show that they were only misdirections. I ignored them in favor of the seemingly overwhelming evidence for my theory, evidence which completely fell apart because of a certain facts that had been introduced at the beginning and middle of the story. It was so much fun being wrong!

This book is just brilliant. I know now that had I not read Harry Potter before this, had I been introduced to J.K. Rowling with this book, or alternatively, had Robert Galbraith been a real person, the author of this novel would still quickly become one of my favorites.

But, you know what, I rave about J.K. Rowling all the time. So I will say this: do not take my word for it. Do not assume that this book is brilliant. Or alternatively, raise your expectations so high it would be almost impossible to reach. Then read the book, rate it for yourself, and see if you agree with me.


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