Rating – 4 stars
In the inverted food chain of fame, it was the big beasts who were stalked and hunted
― Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling
It would be a blatant lie to say that I have had this book on my TBR list for months now and just found the time and opportunity to read it. Yeah I had seen it on Goodreads in the year’ Mystery releases and especially in April’ new releases. But somehow I skimmed through and thought not now. I have an already huge TBR pile plus that’s a new guy, there weren’t even many reviews on the page then I think, so I dint give it a second look. And moved on.
But holy crap on a cracker, the news which took the literary world by storm a few days back affected me just as much as about any bookworm, J. K. Rowling had written another book, with a pseudonym and IT IS THIS BOOK!!!!!
I wasted no time and found this and downloaded it instantly. One of my all time favorite authors, a living legend in her own right, Rowling had a book out and the world had no inkling! Damn, as much as Rowling is annoyed at this leak, we as fans are not averse to the revelation. Not that I don’t get her wish of being anonymous for a while, but dear god how can you resist a Rowling book? The woman we barely knew has now become a part of our lives for more than a decade now. I am not encouraging people to hound her, but would you be able to resist the lure of her works? With Harry Potter she unleashed a kind of craze, a frenzy that made people want to read again, when books were starting to lose out to the glitz and glamour of movies and TV shows. Yeah the answer is clear. Though I am yet to read her earlier release Casual Vacancy, the mix bag of reviews has not really helped but I suppose sometime later I will pick it up. The pre-ordered copy has to be read at some point after all.
So now coming to the book itself, The Cuckoo’ Calling by Rowling under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith is her maiden attempt at writing a Mystery novel and the first book in the Cormoran Strike series which happens to be named after the central character, the male protagonist of the series.
The mystery in itself is nothing new nor is the revelation at the end of the novel. Yeah the killer is the guy you may or may not suspect at all. But as usual Rowling delivers in her execution and not in the novelty or originality of the concept.
The victim, Lula Landry is a supermodel, the adopted daughter of Sir Alec and Lady Yvette. She dies by falling from the balcony of her home and is presumed to have committed suicide. Her life history further backs the claim that she was a potential time bomb that was just waiting to explode. A bipolar disorder, paranoia owing to her fame, a junkie boyfriend, and an upbringing that certainly was guaranteed to screw her up added to her need to know her biological roots sure did come in handy when the police ruled out her death as a suicide. Just another famous and troubled name who cracked under the pressure and stress.
Things seem to have been concluded and the trail of any clues that could have indicated are lost or otherwise forgotten until a few months later her agitated brother John Bristow takes it upon himself that he needs answers and hires Cormoran Strike – a war veteran turned private detective.
Like Harry, Cormoran too is not without his share of fame, though it’s not because of his reputation as a war hero. Nor is he in any way thrilled with it. The illegitimate son of rock star father who has produced a long line of offspring’s, he is ignored by him. Having a drug-addict for a mother doesn’t help him either.
In what seems like a wonderful contradiction to me, we see Cormoran investigating a case where things seem to be crystal clear on the surface and hence there is no movement – nothing to proceed on that would allude foul play while on the other hand we see his life going through an upheaval where in reality he actually seems to have been stuck at the same place and point in a rut for the better part of his life now for more than a decade.
Other people his age had houses and washing machines, cars and television sets, furniture and gardens and mountain bikes and lawn mowers: he had four boxes of crap, and a set of matchless memories.
These words are an apt description of his life at the point where the novel begins. At age 35, he has been given an honorary discharge from the army after an incident which causes one of his legs to be blown up and later amputated, Cormoran has also recently broken up with his on again off again girlfriend Catherine, for good this time around. The only person he is really close to his half-sister Lucy, who he grew up with. Though he doesn’t plan to settle down and have a family ever, which doesn’t come as a surprise really.
His financial position is so bad that it’s a miracle the guy isn’t seeking a shelter at some sorta of a place for the homeless. And though he has an office and an impressive resume, jobs clearly do not seem pouring in one after another. A big guy he has issues with his looks that aren’t limited to his status as an amputee. A childhood nickname that he got due to his unfortunate hair still haunts the poor fellow.
In midst of all of this, he has gained weight, has been manhandled at the hands of his ex and is threatened by various people to whom he owes debts. Mondays happen to greet him cheerfully with these threats, delivered either on a telephone or via mail.
Given the above history it takes no genius to figure out he has his plate full, when in walks Robin, his latest temp whom he cannot even afford for more than a week’ time and with whom his first meeting is of a disastrous result in and of itself. Not the greatest beginning here really. But it seems his luck is about to change when he is handed over the case that catapults him into fame, one of his own making.
The victim Lula too, comes across as a character that is so confused in her life. Not that I could blame her. Being adopted and knowing it is one thing. Being a black baby adopted by a white family can result in an identity crisis of major proportions. Especially if the family is as … well screwed up as this one. And friends who seem to be only interested in you for their own benefit. For their chance to cash in on your fame. You see glimpses of how manipulation plays a big part in her life. Her fame which causes her to be surrounded yet be completely isolated at the same time.
Yeah I would be one messed up gal too if I were her.
Without giving too much away its hard to describe the gist of a mystery novel but this I would say, the themes here and particularly the way the characters were executed reminded me so much of many a favorites of mine from the HP series that it was a delight. The most misunderstood character has the best intentions possible though the actions don’t happen to speak in favor. The one who eventually turns out as the villain will remind you of someone from HP series too, though not a major character but nonetheless an impactful one.
The character I was most reminded of was of Hermione when it came to Robin. Though not as bookish as her, this gal was more than just a pretty face. She is one tough cookie too, though I suppose she is just finding it out. A romantic at heart, and recently engaged to her sweetheart of 8 years she is thrilled to discover when a temp agency sends her to work for Cormoran – a detective. Yeah who could not be a little excited. Spies and detectives seem fictional to a lot of people – which apparently include her fiancé too. He is not exactly a fan of Robin’ enthusiasm or her employer. Though we do not get to meet him in the book I suppose the next offing could perhaps resolve that. He comes across only when Robin thinks or speaks of him or Cormoran’ assumption of his reactions to particular situations based on his knowledge of him from Robin.
The book divided into five parts is generous to the F-bomb and other such colorful words as it alternates from dealing with the case to Cormoran’ personal life – either his past or present. The locales of London are described beautifully though sometimes that does seem too much. Really I would have been glad if a few of these descriptions were chopped off. Nothing against London but it becomes a little too much at times.
Coming to the lead character Cormoran, at last now. It is a tad bit early to say I love or adore him but yep he is likable. Brilliant, resourceful, self-reliant with a dry sense of humor who could use a little help with his wardrobe and perhaps lose some weight, he could be your average Joe.
It was weird. Would you believe it if some supermodel called you up and told you she was your sister?
Strike thought of his own bizarre family history.
Probably, he said.
a little nugget of what I was speaking about.
It’s so refreshing to read about someone, anyone who is a lead character and not have people fawning over them because of their looks, their beauty. Really, it kills my buzz as a reader, when a character’ major draw is the looks department. If I want plastic Barbies and greek gods, there is no dearth of them on TV & movies. Even fashion channels & magazines can help serve that purpose. But when reading I want to know about a person, whether he/she is lovable or detestable doesn’t really matter much does it? As long as there is a definite depth to the character, a reason that makes him/her act the way they do. Be what makes the character have a defining essence.
It’s here as usual that Rowling works her magic as she writes a hero who doesn’t have women swooning over him or his charisma. Rather he is so ordinary that you would not give him a second look, if it could be helped. His bulk and a slight limp are the qualities which draw your attention to him not his Adonis like looks.
So yeah its a no-brainer I am picking up the next book which has a tentative release date sometime next year, not just because its Rowling here, though there is that. But because I really happened to like Cormoran and Robin and cannot wait for their adventures up ahead.
P.S. Do I even need to recommend this one?