Home       About Me       Review Archive

Monday, August 5, 2013

Muggle Monday: The Cuckoo's Calling Review

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.

This week, I'm posting my review for The Cuckoo's Calling, J.K. Rowling's second post-Potter book:

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Published: April 30, 2013
Pages: 449
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his long-time girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Landry walks through his door with an amazing story. His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, fell, famously, to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rockstar boyfriends, desperate designers, and every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detective novels, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know the world of the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen it investigated by a detective like this one.

In short: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) is an incredibly effective and ingenious mystery with the highly intricate and complex characterization we've come to expect from Jo.
Quelle surprise - I'm rating Jo's latest book 5 Stars. To be fair though, I don't think it's JUST my bias towards her that has me rating The Cuckoo's Calling so highly. Lots of people loved it back when they thought it was written by a debut author and ex-Royal Military Police investigator, Robert Galbraith. Releasing The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym was a very clever move - and completely understandable. This way, J.K. Rowling was able to determine what people thought of her work based on the merit of her writing rather than her name and reputation. Readers went into it without any expectations or disappointment that they weren't getting the next Harry Potter, like what happened with The Casual Vacancy.

I was super excited when I heard Jo had written a mystery. I've always thought she had a special talent in that area. Many of the books in the Harry Potter series have had mysteries at the story's core. I can recall taking my time with the books upon first read, staying up to all hours of the night, getting my Veronica Mars on, trying to figure out the answers to each of the mysteries in the series for myself - who opened the Chamber of Secrets, who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire, who is the Half-Blood Prince, etc.? And not once did I ever manage to guess the outcome before the reveal at the end. I was always surprised and I was always left in awe at J.K. Rowling's genius.

The Cuckoo's Calling was certainly no exception. I was left utterly surprised at the identity of the murderer of Lula Landry. Over the course of the novel, I suspected almost every character at one point or another. It was written in such a way that many different people could have plausibly been the killer, but only one - the true killer revealed at the end - actually made sense. The clues are complex and the red herrings are numerous. J.K. Rowling has proved unequivocally that she has the talent to write mysteries to run with the best of the mystery writers. I wouldn't have thought there was anything left that could impress me about Jo, but it turns out there was. There really, really was.

And of course, no review of a book by J.K. Rowling would be complete without mentioning the brilliance and intricacy of her characterization, even if it's redundant at this point. She writes characters that are all very flawed and often hard to like in their entirety. But because of this, they are all REAL. They are all genuine and credible in a way only flawed, imperfect characters can be. I took to the gruffness and no-nonsense attitude of Cormoran Strike, the down-and-out private investigator who has just been dumped by the love of his life, immediately. Somehow he commanded both my sympathies for his bleak situation and my extreme respect as a man of morals and a highly skilled detective. Secondary characters are all similarly complex and well defined.

I think I liked The Casual Vacancy a bit more than The Cuckoo's Calling. The Cuckoo's Calling provided an excellent source of entertainment in the form of one impressively plotted mystery, but The Casual Vacancy seared right to the core of my heart with its emotion and insight and left me reeling and meditating for days and days afterwards. I think The Cuckoo's Calling will have a bit less impact on me in the long run, but that certainly doesn't mean it's not a story worth reading as it was perfectly excellent in its own right. I highly recommend The Cuckoo's Calling to fans of mystery stories and of course, to fans of J.K. Rowling's intricate characterization and clever writing. It excites me to no end that The Cuckoo's Calling is only the first in a planned series featuring Cormoran Strike!

Previously, my review of The Casual Vacancy

Other Reviews:
Alison Can Read
Novel Sounds

Author Links:


  1. Great to hear that the characterization is good, and that she had you suspecting everyone

  2. The mystery sounds fabulous! Glad that her characters are realistic and genuine (as always).

    I still need to read THE CASUAL VACANCY - it's sitting on my shelf, and it sounds like I really need to read it soon.

    Fabulous review!

  3. Eee! 5 stars! WOOT. JKR is the QUEEN of characterization. I am so excited to get my hands on this one. Awesome review, Aylee!

  4. Wow, great review! I love how you related things you liked in this book to things you liked in the Harry Potter books. I don't think I'll read The Casual Vacancy, which sounds a little dark for me, but I love a mystery that keeps you guessing so I'll probably give this one a try :)

  5. Squee! I agree, JKR has a fantastic gift for mysteries and your comments about trying to figure out the outcome to this book and her HP book mysteries had me giggling because with HP I was the same way - and I NEVER guess right either! I'm very excited about this one even though I still need to read Casual Vacancy (shameful, I know!!) but both are now on the very top of my wishlist :D I loved the enthusiasm of your review and as always, your insight ♥ Thanks girl!

  6. I liked Cormoran too. There's something about his gruffness that is charming. And you feel a little sorry for him.

    I've never watched Veronica Mars. Should I?

    1. YES. Yes yes yes, you should! The first two season anyways... the third was crap because that's when the show moved to the CW.

  7. Love wonderful characterization. And I'm such a big fan of mystery novels, so it's very exciting that J.K. finally has an official one (since, as you said, the Harry Potter books had plenty of mystery throughout). I'm glad you enjoyed this one, and you know I loved The Casual Vacancy, so it will be fun to finally check out another adult novel from Jo!

  8. I'm glad you liked this book!! I haven't read The Casual Vacancy yet but after liking this so much and hearing you say you liked that one even MORE, I'm curious! The characters really made the book. Wonderful review!

  9. I wasn't the biggest fan of The Casual Vacancy, so I'm really glad to hear this one ups the ante, Aylee! It sounds like it's full of twists and turns - which any good mystery should be - and her writing style is always flawless...let's be honest. What a great review for a book I'm now even more excited for! :)

  10. YAY! I'm so glad to hear this was a good story. I'm interested to know how she did writing a mystery, I wasn't a huge fan of The Casual Vacancy, but I did love the intricacy of all the characters, so I definitely can't wait to read this one! It was very smart of her to use a pseudonym. Great review!

  11. I'm currently trying this one on audio and having such a hard time with all the back-story stuff.

    I need to try to push through.

    Great review.

  12. I also admire Rowling for publishing this book like she did. This one didn't stand out to me too much until I read your review, and you have really sold me on the mystery, it sounds fantastic and I love the unpredictability of it all.

  13. I really think it's brave for her to take such moves and I'm happy that this book is again a masterpiece. Not that I expected anything else from The Queen of writing ;)

  14. I knew I could count on you to have a review posted on The Cuckoo's Calling before too long! I definitely need to read it at some point, but I'm not in a rush to the way I was with The Casual Vacancy. I did have a brief mystery phase when I was younger (entirely Agatha Christie books), but I'm just so terrible at guessing whodunit that I've mostly given up on mysteries haha. Except for Veronica Mars. Never giving up on her.
    But of course I will be making an exception for this new series. I completely agree with you that JKR showed bits of skill writing mysteries within the HP books, and I can only imagine how that talent has gotten much better by having her devote an entire book to a major mystery. It's a relief to hear you loved the characterization, which will always be my favorite part of any of her books.
    Wonderful review, Aylee! I'm glad that you enjoyed reading this, even if it's not quite as good as HP or The Casual Vacancy.

  15. So glad you liked it! Can't wait for my copy to arrive :)

  16. I was actually hesitant on picking up The Casual Vacancy since it didn't particularly appeal to me, but The Cuckoo's Calling has a more intriguing plot in my opinion. I never really though about the HP series being a "mystery", but the way you pointed it out, I have to agree with you! I'm glad Jo kept you guessing in her newest book. I'll have to read this one soon, thanks for the brilliant review, dear!

  17. I haven't read either of Jo's adult books but I get the feeling I'll enjoy The Cuckoo's Calling more than The Casual Vacancy. It's been a while since I've read a pure mystery so I'll probably give this one a try. I'm terrible at solving mysteries, but I love that Jo managed to keep you guessing as to who the real murderer was.

  18. YAY! I just got my copy of The Cuckoo's Calling. I guess you saw it on Instagram already. Anyways, you have no idea how happy I am to see that you loved this book, Aylee! I already love it because it's JKR but coming from a true and trustworthy Harry Potter fan like you, I'm now more eager to read it. I can't wait. Wonderful review!

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  19. I think I am a little more excited to read this one than I am The Casual Vacancy (which I have yet to read). I am curious about the mystery novel and I am eager to get lost in Jo's characters. I kind of appreciate that this book isn't as thought provoking or emotional as The Casual Vacancy. I really need to get over it and read both books.

    Thanks for the review Aylee.

  20. I thought it was cool that she wrote this under a pseudonym too. She does have a talent for mystery :) I went and read who the killer was and it's obvious NOW that I know, but I never would have guessed it either. She knows how to play your expectations and biases like a fiddle :) I really liked Cormoran Strike and his temp secretary. Nice review!

  21. I really liked that she wrote under a pseudonym.. it took off the pressure but as you said, allowed her to know what people really thought!

  22. Good read with a complex plot. I hope there will be more books featuring Cormoran Strike, a great new detective.
    Best Info about Aviation One Emergency Medical Transportation

  23. If you're looking for magic, you will be dissatisfied; if you prefer gratuitous violence or sex, you will also leave unhappy. If you like a good murder mystery with down-to-earth characters and constant guessing, I would highly recommend this novel.

    PCX Technologies Dallas