“How easy it was to capitalise on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”
Lula Landry, a famous model, has fallen to her death from her balcony. The constantly depressed, lonely addict is believed to have killed herself. London's glamorous world of fashion has already seemingly moved past the well publicized suicide, but Landry's brother isn't convinced. John Bristow tracks down the hero of the book, private detective Strike. Recently broken up with his fiance, Cormoran Strike is a hairy, slightly overweight 30-something ex-soldier, with a prosthetic leg, no place to live and a painfully stagnant career. With his new temp secretary, 25-year old Robin, Strike reluctantly accepts the case, more for the money to pay off his debts than anything else. And so the story dives straight into the typical world of celebrity: secrets, cover-ups and the omnipresent paparazzi.
I rarely like mysteries, for the very reason that has been mentioned in this book: "(...) killings were more than puzzles to be solved." Most action packed crime novels lack both the human element as well as the touch of grounded reality that The Cuckoo's Calling had. As I read this book, I realized something that had never really occurred to me before. I don't love Harry Potter for the magic; it's hardly my favourite in the fantasy genre. I like it for the compelling characters, engaging narration and the warm humour. The Cuckoo's Calling offers all that, with an added dash of apt literary prose, a rare sight in run-of-the-mill detective fiction. All books have critics, often those who spew literary jargon with an annoying frequency and fluency. In case of this book, as in case of almost every other, I simply don't want to address them. Let me assure you, though, it wasn't just my unfaltering loyalty to J.K. Rowling that made me fall in love with this book.
Plot: I liked the detailed descriptions of the method Cormoran followed for his research; the extensive Google searches and conversations with each suspect about the same things, repeated for our benefit, over and over. It seemed realistic, no violent action scenes or office romances, nor delightfully developed technological help. I loved that there were clues strewn all over the book, things you could tell were important. I loved how the pieces slowly fell together and I actually was able to guess who by the very end. I love how much time was given to the how and of course, the entire book was about why the murder was committed.
Characters: It was interesting, how every interrogation revealed each character's unique voice, opinion and priorities. And most intriguingly, none of the characters were how they appeared to be. Stereotypes were broken in the most unexpected manners; like showing a surprisingly emotional side to Landry's obnoxious druggie boyfriend Evan Duffield. I liked designer Guy Some, almost as much as the running gag about his name (it's pronounced ghee.) I loved the clumsy, endearing relationship between Strike and his 'temporary solution' Robin. Rowling can create worlds, even ordinary ones, with such flourish, that even those who rarely come onstage have an effect on you: Matthew, Charlotte, Jonny Rokeby, to name a few. I liked Rachel, Raquelle or whatever her name was as one of the people who go unnoticed, who, despite the many snouted cameras pointed their way, stay hidden in the shadows, out of the limelight. And in a very Barry Fairbrother-esque way, the most complex character of the book was the one who never made an appearance; the black girl adopted into a white family, now famous, still searching for her true self, her roots: Lula Landry.
Language: Rowling is good at one-liners, of the 'there's no need to call me sir, professor'-variety and this book was full of them. In the midst of all the serious drama, her skillfully funny dialogue made me chuckle. The writing is vivid, perceptive, rich. It cast a spell on me, that tugged at me and made it impossible for me to concentrate on anything else. I inserted scraps of papers (makeshift bookmarks) whenever any line, any thought appealed to me. By the time the book was over, it was filled with little pieces of paper, stuck in after almost every couple of pages. When I re-read them, the spell stayed unbroken and I do know every read will show me something new. An entire day later, today, I'm still unable to put the book back on the shelf. I want more.
After reading An Ocean at the End of the Lane, I was at a loss for words. The Cuckoo's Calling has left me bursting with words of praise, love, surprise, satisfaction, awe, intrigue...