The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1) by Robert Galbraith is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge. As Roberta pointed out in her Writer’s Review, we all know now that Robert Galbraith is a pen name for J. K. Rowling, author of the iconic Harry Potter series.
This post does not contain spoilers.
You have to give Rowling props for using a pen name and writing something entirely different from Harry Potter. She could have easily used her own name and raked in the dough that would come her way as her faithful readers scurried to buy her newest book. Instead, she wanted her new book to stand on its own, or not, whichever the case might be. Or maybe she wanted to make a point about how difficult it is for new authors to get noticed. In any case, even though The Cuckoo’s Calling received rave reviews for a debut book upon it’s release in 2013, sales were mediocre at best until The Sunday Times revealed that the true author was Rowling.
How did the newspaper discover her identity? Interestingly enough, they received an anonymous tip that Rowling was the actual author. The newspaper then hired an computer analysis (sound familiar?) of The Cuckoo’s Calling and some of Rowling’s other books, comparing them to works by other authors. As soon as The Sunday Times published their findings, The Cuckoo’s Calling immediately went from No. 5076 in sales on Amazon to No. 1. Rowling enjoyed five short weeks of anonymity after the book’s release before her identity was revealed. I can only imagine her disappointment that she was unable to remain “behind the curtain” a bit longer.
The Cuckoo’s Calling doesn’t feel like a debut novel. For one thing, it contains multiple complex characters. Unlike one of our previous books, Easy Prey, these characters are memorable – no turning back pages trying to remember who is who. Not only are they memorable, but we care about them, have visceral reactions to them, even if they are only peripheral characters. Each character seems to be an essential part to the story, and who we thought they were at the beginning is often revealed to be a flawed first impression. Rowling/Galbraith certainly knows her/his stuff when it comes to writing characters.
As an example, we first meet the main character, Cormoran Strike, as he is spinning out of control from lack of sleep, the break-up of a longterm relationship, and the downward spiral of his business. He’s homeless, living in his office, which may soon be gone also. He’s simply not at his finest, yet this is how we first meet him, and our first impression is not a good one. Who is this bumbling fool? Surely he can’t be our detective?! Yet as the story progresses, we learn that he actually brings a lot to the table as a detective: he has a keen eye for details, listens intently, can easily spot when someone is lying, and is able to weave together the same story from several people’s perspectives to spot the flaws in their recounting. He’s actually an excellent detective and it’s a pleasure to watch him at work as he pieces together the why’s and where’s and who’s of the crime, or, in this case, multiple crimes, as the body count does rise from the initial murder of Lula Landry in the opening of The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Strike’s Office Temp
Initially I was a bit disappointed in Robin, Strike’s temporary office assistant (a.k.a. secretary). When we first meet her, she has just accepted a marriage proposal and seemed to be more dazzled by the ring on her finger than the actual man who proposed. Given the “modern times” we live in, Robin seems quite old-fashioned and it’s a bit surprising that Rowling, as a female author, wouldn’t give Robin a more feminist character. Of course, Rowling didn’t write The Cuckoo’s Calling; male author Galbraith wrote it. Maybe Rowling was trying to write this female character as she thought a male author would. In any case, Robin’s character becomes more developed throughout the book and she and Strike seem to hit some sort of professional rapport by the end of the book, which bodes well for the continuing series. And obvious seeds have been laid for growth with the Robin character. I look forward to seeing how her character is developed in the continuing series.
We’ve now read through 25% of the books from The Bestseller Code’s book list and I feel like we’re finally getting into novels that deserve being on the list. I thoroughly enjoyed the last book, And The Mountains Echoed, and found The Cuckoo’s Calling to be equally entertaining, albeit a very different manner of entertainment. I can only hope our next book in the reading challenge, The White Tiger, will keep up this streak of enjoyable reading.
If you enjoyed reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, will you be reading the rest of the Cormoran Strike series? I know I will!
- Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
- Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
- Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
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- The full list is now posted on GoodReads
What are we reading next?
If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.
The next book is number 75. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008) – Discussion begins October 16, 2017
Literary fiction, won the Man Booker Prize