The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)by Published 30 Apr 2013
|The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1).pdf|
|Publisher||Mulholland Books / Little, Brown and Company|
The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 crime fiction novel by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.
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 longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell 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, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.
"The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)" Reviews
It was a bit too long for my taste (I feel like it could have had a little less dialogue and such), but I really liked the characters! Strike and Robin all day.
Dull & tedious. I was frustrated with the style of writing. There’s no action. It’s all conversation. I wanted it to be over.
COURTROOM STYLE CONVERSATIONS - TELLING NOT SHOWING:
Private eye Strike is investigating a death. Throughout the book Strike has long conversations with many different characters. It felt like a courtroom, asking witnesses 30 or more questions one right after the other. Many of these were discussions about what “might have happened. For example “I don’t think he would have done it because he was...” “It could have been this. But assume it’s not, then what about that?” “Why couldn’t it have been a letter to...” All these conversations are people “telling” about the past with their own subjective assumptions, conclusions, and some lies. I’d prefer Strike actively doing things to discover clues and some interesting, unexpected, or scary action.
Even Robin, my favorite character, she went to Oxford to investigate something. We should have watched her and seen her interacting with people. Instead Robin “tells” what she learned to Strike afterwards. Like in the first paragraph, she is answering a bunch of questions about her past activity.
The author used the word “had” a lot - more “telling” not showing.
NO CLUES TO THE READER UNTIL THE TELL-ALL AT THE END:
There are no clues until the last fourth of the book. Then there are a few clues but they don’t mean anything to the reader. For example one character said he noticed drops of water on the floor. I had no idea what that meant until Strike does his “tell all” at the end where he explains the long complicated story of what happened, who lied and why, what caused the water drops, etc. I prefer mysteries where the reader learns some clues along the way that mean something.
ROBIN IS THE BEST PART:
The best part was the beginning. I really enjoyed the character Robin, Strike’s temporary assistant. She shows up on her first day just before a new client arrives. She asks Strike if he and the client would like coffee or tea. Strike says yes without thinking. There is no coffee or tea, but she brings it, and Strike has no idea where she got it. A few times he calls her Sandra without thinking. That relationship was fun. Robin has great initiative and ideas. And she does some neat things. But she is only a small part of the story.
ENDING NOT CLEAR TO ME:
I didn’t understand “why” John hired Strike. This was answered, but the answer didn’t feel right.
Strike has a long conversation with Evan who used the f-word every other sentence. I was tired of hearing it. It was a long conversation. Other characters used the f-word less frequently which didn’t bother me as much.
The narrator Robert Glenister was good. But I grew tired of the British accent he used for many characters. “Look what I got” sounds like “Loo wha I goh.” He was probably being accurate, but it was not easy listening for long periods of time.
J.K. Rowling wrote this under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
Narrative mode: 3rd person. Unabridged audiobook length: 15 hrs and 54 mins. Swearing language: strong. Sexual language: I didn’t recall any, but Ernesto corrected me saying there were a few lines by Guy Some. Number of sex scenes: one, referred to no details. Setting: current day London area, England. Book copyright: 2013. Genre: mystery.
Feb 3rd 2014 - Extra things you should know:
1) This is a negative review. If you are looking for reviews that confirm what you are already certain of (that JKR can do no wrong) here are some examples of positive reviews for you - 1, 2, 3.
2) I used some Mary Poppins gifs to make my point in this review. It seemed funny at the time. If you find MP gifs stupid/annoying/beneath you, then please feel free to go to the reviews I linked before.
3) I will no longer reply to comments saying I am stupid or didn't get it. I will no longer reply to insults of any kind or condescending suggestions that I read the book again. If you're tempted to write something like this, save both of us some time and read the previous comments for my answers to people like you. I have way too many unwatched episodes of Law & Order to entertain trolls any longer.
4) I'm sorry to all the people who have been kind and respectful, whether they agreed with me or not. You can just ignore these points.
Things you should know: 1) Ms Rowling filled my childhood and early teen years with magic. I love Harry Potter and I confess to only adding this book after I found out she was the author. 2) I did not go into this with the intention to compare it to Harry Potter. I did not expect magic or wizards and I fully anticipated this being very different to the HP books. 3) I have read and enjoyed many mystery/crime novels in the past. My favourites being by Tana French and Gillian Flynn. So, there was no reason why I couldn't have enjoyed this book simply because it wasn't magical Potterland. But I didn't and, after putting a lot of thought into this, I think I finally understand why.
Here's the sad truth: I can't stand Rowling's writing when she writes for adults. I actually find it painful to read. Let's be clear from the beginning, I started and never finished The Casual Vacancy because the opening didn't grab me and there was something about it - something which I couldn't put my finger on - that made it an effort to get through. A certain style to the writing which didn't agree with me. I thought perhaps it was a one-off because I'd read all her other works and never had a problem with her writing style. That's why I jumped at the chance to try another adult book by Rowling and sort out what was evidently a bout of silliness on my part. What this book did give me was an answer to why neither of Rowling's adult books worked for me.
Rowling writes in an unusual manner. It's not unique to her work for adults, Harry Potter has it too, but the effect had on both is very different. Rowling's style of writing, including the dialogue between characters, is formal to the point of being old-fashioned. Part of me wants to compare it to Austen but I'm cautious of doing so because of the amount of people (usually including myself) who might read that as a compliment. Rowling's formal style doesn't work, for me, when using it in an adult mystery and pairing it with profanity and grisly murders. It feels out of place and weighs down each page with tedious descriptions that use too many awkward similes, metaphors and adjectives.
"...face the colour of corned beef..."
"...the snow fell with soft fingertip plunks..."
Her descriptions all felt a bit off to me. And I particularly didn't like the unsophisticated use of big words. It's like when inexperienced indie authors go crazy with thesaurus.com, using clunky words like "exacerbated" and "exorbitant" in casual sentences that don't benefit from it. The characters in this book never check the time or look at their watches, they "consult" their watches. Think I'm being picky? Try reading whole pages where every sentence replaces the obvious words with complex ones and see how far you get without your brain starting to scream. And it felt like every single noun had at least one adjective before it. Not only that, but Rowling repeats similar adjectives when referring to the objects again. In one sentence, we are told she climbed the "steel stairs" and in the next she's continuing up the "metal stairs". WHY???? And also WHYYYYYY???
Another example of Rowling's old-fashioned style is her frequent use of expressions like "oh my!" and "goodness!", expressions I'm sure some of you will recognise from Harry Potter characters. What is this? It's like Mary Poppins or Little Women or, I don't know, Little House on the Prairie. And maybe it works fine in all of those, same as it works fine in Harry Potter, but none of those also had a side-helping of profanity and very adult themes. They do all, however, share the formal language style.
And while I think people were silly to say things about The Casual Vacancy like "ohmigod this had, like, noooooo magic and even fewer dark lords" when Rowling clearly said it was an adult mystery book and I wanted to say to those silly people:
I still think it's entirely relevant to compare the two when looking at Rowling's writing style and the reason why sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn't. The formal tone with simplistic language - like in Harry Potter - is okay, but dense descriptions and over-complicated sentences made it hard work and tedious in this book. It's like a very formal letter with the occasional random swear word thrown in. And it doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. The style simply doesn't fit the content; there's swearing and murders and people rescuing others by grabbing their breasts...
I'm not even going to talk about the story beyond saying I found it a standard mystery that could have been good if I'd not had these other reasons for not liking it. The killer is not hard to guess for anyone familiar with crime mysteries but that isn't usually what I care about most in crime mysteries anyway. Plus, in this case, I'm just too blinded by my dislike for the writing. *sigh* I think it's fair to say that I'm finally done trying to enjoy Rowling's adult books.
P.S. Yes, I did get a little overexcited when I googled Mary Poppins gifs.
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Meet Cormoran's First Strike..
His first 'Mystery' which haunt me from the early beginning,
even the epigraph.
Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
It starts When snow was falling..and a 'Cuckoo' fell...
A famous model star fall off the balcony to her tragic death..the paparazzi gather around her body just as they did when she was alive..
Her neighbor assert that she heard her arguing and shouting with a man "The Killer" right before seeing her fall.
The police declare that's a lie, the DNA proves there was no stranger there..All the evidences and investigation declare she was alone.
The result is what the police saw was clear from the beginning..Suicide.
'Celebrities always go cuckoo..depression would drive them for that' Some say.
'She was exciting about her new big contract and upcoming trip..she was far from suicide act' Others say.
You'll find thorough the investigations and evidences that no trace of a killer in the scene..
so ...it's Suicide
And then our Story begins
3 Months later
Robin ,A beautiful blonde young lady living her Best Romantic days after getting engaged to her boyfriend ,Went to work as a Temp secretary for some office, she "surprised" to find out the business of the office is her long lost childish ambition of work..
It was an office of A.. Private Detective..
Cormoran Strike ,An ex-Military, Private detective Living his Worst days of his life, just separated from his fiance, His office just got one client..with all his debts; He just stuck with a new temp secretary he can't even afford paying her for her only week...unless he saved by a wealthy client..
John Bristow ,An unexpected new "wealthy" client to Strike's office, as a favor for old friendship between Strike and the latter's brother .. He came for the detective to dig up a very famous case that he didn't agree with its results...A case of his dead -adopted- sister...A Famous Model...Lula Landry
Yes..Lula Landry "Cuckoo" is the famous Model we've witnessed her tragic death at the first scene...
Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apples’ dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
And all winds go sighing
For sweet things dying.
As I've said, the story will haunt you from the very early beginning, its first scene..even from this 19th Century Poem.
Although I've never been into poems & poetry, But this haunting one -may be cause I've heard it also on youtube- makes me really into the mode of "The Cuckoo's Calling".
Also I have to say that Rowling has a great epigraphs choices, like in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" with 2 epigraphs that fit with the final story of Harry"
Also It haunt me for a 'Déjà vu' for an accident that happened 12 years ago almost like the beginning of this novel,also in London..
A death of A Sweetheart,A Cinderella of Egyptian Cinema...that her case's investigations was almost identical to the case of Cuckoo..from the first scene..
I love also the glimpse for famous tragic death of celebrity which "pushed" by paparazzi or even cases closed "wrongly" as suicide.
There's also that great tribute for the soldiers who are trying to readjust with civilian life after leaving the military one for a reason or another.
Some may say it's a bit slow in the first half, but I really respect, even adore that detailed characters and events..it makes me get to know more about Strike and the lovely Robin as I'm with them in the Private Detective office.. and their cool 'professional' relation.
I've actually got into the case of Lula, investigated with Strike the evidences and tried to interview everyone who was near from Lula the day of her death..And I've even got a GREAT experience decipher the "Body Language" while investigating some characters.
And by the half of the novel -As I've written most of this review, right now- I've really wondered ; Is it really a suicide..or a Murder?
The Setting ; London
I used to say in Dan Brown's Novels reviews That it's better to use Illustrated edition or keep searching in Google Image search for the places he describe brilliantly in his novels. The same is here..
J.K. Rowling talent in creating a beautifully Magical world in Harry Potter, or realistic fictional Pagford in The Casual Vacancy proved to be still great in describing the magic of real places as London.
You'll really love to see the statue of Eros; Piccadilly Circus while Robin starts a new step in her romantic life..
You'll walk up and down Denmark Street and 12 Bar Café with its Music Instruments and where The Detective office Locates.
You'll be in real famous Pubs and Bars in London with its Victorian faces.
And these pubs' windows view of the 1920s building decorated with statues by Jacob Epstein
And on the top of all , The elegant Victorian houses at the most wealthy neighborhood and streets like Bellamy Road and Mayfair.
The bottom line is ,you're invited to a lovely journey into the heart of London at the moment you start the novel.
One more time, like all her work, The author writes the characters -even the secondary ones- in very detailed way, you discover more about them and their past by each new chapter, which really makes you as if you actually Living with them..and in this case,you're trying to solve a hidden mystery in a case with the Detective...
**** Cormoran Strike ****
Make a lot of thinking who would play him, -specially it wasn't clear his age at till book two- Alan Rickman is too old, may be Robert Downey Jr. but he's not English -although it didn't stop him being Holmes - and finally Hugh Jackman :)who I stuck with, some suggested Hagrid "without the costumes of course"
Ex-Military still love discipline of the military life; Can't live with it anymore though ..and not because of his injury.
Private Detective with big debts...just a client or two in the best days..and not even investigate the crazy death threatens he got regularly.
Adore his ex-fiancee Charlotte..but can't live with her lies..
Illegitimate son for a famous star..Hates it'd be his "fame".
A very complicated character that you'll love to know him better page after page.. Wanting to know more about him and may you'd end up like me ..Waiting more books for him.
**** Robin Ellacott ****
A New Hermione-type. Super smart,clever, got the spirit of initiative. And this time,Super beautiful. As if Jo this time assert that women are smart even those super pretty ones.
I love how she got a childish dream of her being a Detective herself. and I got so attached with her complicated "romance and nonsense free" relation with Strike and I was praying she'd stay till the end and to see her again in the next books of the series.
**** Lula Landry "Cuckoo" ****
Emma Stone was the first face come in mind when I saw the US edition's cover,I know that at the novel she doesn't look like her at all
“With all the gallons of newsprint and hours of televised talk that have been poured forth on the subject of Lula Landry’s death, rarely has the question been asked: why do we care?
Why Do We Care?
Well, you'll know page by page.
You'll get into the real Lula or "Cuckoo" as she and her best pals calls her, by the testimony of her brother,the news and articles written about her that you know from Robin's internet search ,and the tales and testimonies of those who were near her, one by one by how close to her they were as the story goes.
But you'll get better look into her by reading with Strike her personal emails ,clear look as if you looking into her soul,or ghost.
I promise that,before the half of the novel as in my case, you'll really love to know more about that lovely ,complicated character of Lula...And you'll really Care..and wonder.
How Did Lula Landry really Die?
Fame sometimes is a double-edged sword..The Casual Vacancy's 500+ was rated 'one star' in few hours after its release JUST because it's not Harry-ish ; or some didn't like Harry Potter or Rowling herself.
I guess that's why the decision of publishing under Pseudonym..And honestly,as the writer, I wished it'd last longer "Even I may never hear about it unless it get good publicity or hit the news of up-coming movie based on it, And I'm sure I'll still LOVE it even if I didn't know it's Rowling's.
And if you saw the Goodreads main page of the book at 14th.July 2013 you'll find all of the reviews very positive and even 4.1+ rating and it didn't start getting a '1 Star' but after the announcement of the real author.
Anyway I'm sure Rowling get GREAT researching Robert-Galbraith bio. as seen on "About the Author" in the 1st Printing of the book -which get sold out after few minutes of the announcement and auctioned with hundredth of dollars and I was lucky to get one of these 1st prints for this small captions about the author that wasn't at any other later printings.
ROBERT GALBRAITH spent several years with the Royal Military Police before being attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plainclothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world. “Robert Galbraith” is a pseudonym.
You'd feel Robert's really like Strike himself..
It's clearly that J.K. Rowling did a lot of research about the Ex-Militarily officers and their lives. You'll touch that at many points in the novel.
Catching introduction for the main characters .. Check
Smart Investigations .. Check
Real Exercise on reading the Body Language .. Check
Marvelous setting ,very realistic; still magical.. Check
I fall in love with the mystery of this novel, the characters and every thing , I've read it slowly to keep it in my hand for as long as I can. "took me 4 weeks reading almost as the same duration of the plot" And I'd really recommend it strongly to any crime thriller readers..
I love this praise
The Cuckoo's Calling reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place (Val McDermid)
But in my case ..The Cuckoo's Calling is why I "newly" fell in love with crime fiction.
I loved investigatings and the detective work,with all the observation and reading the body language.
I loved the characters ,Robin is wonderful ,Lula even we don't have any "live" scene for her even no flashbacks but I truly attached to her case ,Liked her so much,she became a name for me and also.. Cormoran Strike Became a Name.
Reading from 2nd Oct. 2013
To 29th Oct. 2013
Start writting the review: 18th Oct. 2013
<<<<<<<<<< 14 / 7 / 2013 The First Review >>>>>>>>>>
The first impression about the news of the book "My birthday surprise" and I'd love to thank everyone like it or comment and I hope you'd like the final review..thanks for your support.
Yesterday ,after Midnight it was 14th July.....
My 30th Birthday :( :( :(
But this News MADE My Day...And My YEAR
This Book is J.K. Rowling's!!!!!
No more wait day after day for the plot of her new book, the cover, release dates etc..
No more "negative" reviews just for her name only after just hours of the release of the books As what happened withThe Casual Vacancy
That was what made me really Super HAPPPYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
"And of course you know how anyone would react when He's 30
I've Ordered it at the same day from Amazon
And Truly can't wait
THANK YOU Queen Jo.,Queen of wizard and witches, Queen of Magic
14th July 2013
UPDATE 2: This is my final review of the book. Most of what I included in my preemptive thoughts is here, so you don't have to read this whole... thing.
Potential television series title #21: LONDON STRIKE
Alright, let’s address the hippogriff in the room: finding out that J.K. Rowling published a book under a pseudonym is something that I had I expected might happen post-Potter (and, embarrassingly, searched for), but when the question was brought up as to whether or not she'd write under one, she dismissed the idea, saying that people would quickly find out it was her (which, after reading The Casual Vacancy I concur with, as the tagline could have been "WELCOME TO DURSLEYVILLE"), so the idea was sort of debunked for me.
First, I feel that it’s necessary to offer in preamble that I actually liked The Casual Vacancy. Yes, it offers some views that some may find preachy, and Rowling’s stream-of-narrative writing lacks subtlety and dilutes the rawness of her characters. However, I also found it quite affecting- in fact, I’ve since read the novel a few more times more objectively, and the craft behind it becomes more apparent with each re-read. Did Franzen handle social satire better? Yes, but Rowling is in tight possession of a unique, wry wit that’s all her own. I think that the problem that many fans had is that they’re accustomed to the J.K. Rowling who writes about morality on a large scale- great battles of good and evil staged with dragons and goblins and ghosts, entrenched in themes of friendship, love, and death. The Casual Vacancy is also a morality tale- but the characters are so clueless, self-destructive and human, that a fan of the Harry Potter books can’t help but emerge disappointed.
Fortunately, The Cuckoo’s Calling doesn’t strive for such heights.
When I first heard about the book (after fixing the hole in the ceiling caused by my gargantuan leap of joy) I was excited. I mean, I’d much rather see J.K. Rowling whip out that killer gift for world building that she has in the realm of science fiction or fantasy, but she is equally skilled in mystery writing. I’ve always, always thought of The Chamber of Secrets as a mystery novel. That was always the appeal of it to me, and I felt that it stood out from the rest of the books because of it. But after J.K. Rowling wrote in the FAQ section of the new Cormoran Stike website that all of the Harry Potter books are essentially who-dun-its, with the exception of the fifth, I realized that they are. Each is essentially a search for a culprit using a limited amount of clues.
Potential television series title #19: BBC’S SHERLOCK HARRY—Ep. 1: “A Study in Potions”
But one doesn’t even need to view the Harry Potter books as mysteries in order to expect Rowling to be a great mystery writer- the immense amount of plotting and interweaving of detail throughout the books is commendable, and alone legitimizes the size of whatever paycheck Rowling got after every book. One of the biggest problems film makers had when adapting the final books of the series is that they came to realize that details that they had carelessly discarded bore great significance in the final books. An invisibility cloak becoming a Hallow, a friend’s pet rat an animagus. We know how skilled J.K. Rowling is at creating red-herrings and false trails already.
One doesn’t even need to read all of the books to understand this. Just one chapter, in the Goblet of Fire. In an interview with Charlie Rose last year, J.K. Rowling revealed that chapter 11 of the fourth installment of the series was one that she wrote and rewrote the most, in order to draw suspicion away from a newspaper article written about Mad-Eye Moody. The intention was that it was to be written so that it could be interpreted and reinterpreted by other characters and the readers, so that we wouldn’t figure out the truth about Moody’s character until the end. This shows us that Rowling has an eye for the way the reader thinks, something that comes in handy for her towards the climax of Calling.
Still, I had my reservations (see all 503 pages of The Casual Vacancy).
Potential television series title #7: ROBERT GALBRAITH’S (A.K.A. J.K. ROWLING’S (it’s out now, so we won’t look like douchebags for marketing it this way)) CORMORAN & ROBIN
But I was pleasantly surprised by The Cuckoo’s Calling. I don’t read much mystery, although I did read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was younger and watch BBC’S Sherlock now. When I do encounter a mystery, however, I judge it by how well it manages to surprise me. For me, this includes the author laying out all the details for the reader at the beginning- no big surprises towards the end masquerading as a clever twist that are really meant to keep the reader from finding out who did it. It’s the job of a good detective—and a good mystery writer—to piece together the clues in a way that the reader doesn’t, but theoretically could have. Rowling does this, balancing a cast of characters and an assortment of clues so numerous that I can’t imagine even the most dedicated mystery savant keeping up. The suspects at one point all seem to have iron-cast motive and opportunity, Rowling quickly outsmarting the reader.
The plotting and the sheer intricacy of the details woven throughout might be the most impressive that I’ve ever encountered in a modern mystery novel. The utter tautness of the book, quite frankly, blew me away. It sticks to the traditional mystery formula. Rowling doesn’t have a Gillian Flynn-like touch on the genre. There’s the obligatory introduction of each character and clue to the point where it feels like speed-dating, and there’s a long exposition at the end about what happens. I was so impressed by the ending, though, that the cookie-cutter feel of it became subdued. And everything- which is perhaps what was most refreshing- is realistic. There’s no shocking conclusion and- thankfully- no ludicrous segueways between connections.
Rowling’s gift for prose is evident, once again showing her finesse at maneuvering the English language. Although hardcore mystery fans may get a little tired of Rowling’s Dickensian style, I was always interested. In the sluggish, monotonous mid-morning hours at work I found myself wanting to pick up my copy of the book to see what happened next.
Her characters are great. The relationship between John and Robin is sweet but covers all its bases- I like that their friendship is just a “friendship,” but it’s not like they’re not going to each consider the romantic possibilities of the other. Cormoran’s handicapped, ex-military character felt a little too John Watson for me, but his role as a character that prevails and doesn’t wallow-for the most part-is satisfying. I enjoyed Robin’s character too, and hope her part is bigger in the next installment.
The presence of socioeconomic dynamics is featured heavily throughout the novel, and plays key parts in the mystery itself, lingering among character motivations and plot connections. I thought that it was a fascinating feature to include in a mystery novel, and gave it its distinct taste- but I hope that this doesn’t become a recurring theme throughout the series. It’s relevant here, but I prefer it as the atmosphere for one mystery alone. These dynamics are relevant ones in our culture, but the way that Rowling presented it in Vacancy was found unpalatable by a lot of readers. If she keeps it in play for each of her subsequent mysteries the way she does here, then the reader might grow bored. Some series’ find their tone in a shift of setting, going from the slums to high society. It’s the job of the main characters to keep the setting grounded, and with the team of John Bristow and Robin Ellacott, Rowling’s got the materials on hand.
In other ways, however, it feels like Rowling hasn’t found her tone as a writer. The ambiance here doesn’t take on the meaty, rich qualities that have characterized the most renowned mystery writers- Robert Louis Stevenson’s gift for describing shadowy alleys and nightmarish supernaturalism is his hallmark, Christie equally adept at creating grim atmospheres sans the magical realism. Rowling’s writing is beautiful, but it seems to languish in contemporaneity. In this way it’s not an escapist novel- immersive, yes, but I found myself becoming more aware of the present rather than absconding from it.
Bottom line, The Cuckoo’s Calling incorporates potent mystery writing, intricate plotting, and likable characters, showcasing some of Rowling’s best skills as a writer, even if her others don’t appeal entirely to the target audience here.
UPDATE: I've finished the book, and I was right about Rowling's deftness at mystery writing, particularly around the part about The Chamber of Secrets. Full review to come, but highly recommended. Not phenomenal or on par with Potter, but all the things that didn't work in Vacancy are very much present except that they work in a mystery setting, and that it's all very, very good. Tightest, most intricate plotting I've ever seen in a mystery novel.
So, finding out that J.K. Rowling published a book under a pseudonym is something I'd always expected (and, embarassingly, searched for), but when the question was brought up as to whether she'd write one, she said everyone would figure it out right away (which, after reading The Casual Vacancy I concur with, as the tagline could have been "WELCOME TO DURSLEYVILLE"), so the idea was sort of debunked for me. I'm slightly disappointed that I haven't heard of it, which means that it hasn't received enough acclaim to cross over to the mainstream on its own, which is less than I'd like. But people-
a) It's a J.K. Rowling book
b) We don't have to wait for it. It's already out.
I liked The Casual Vacancy. But I think that the main issue many fans had was that J.K. Rowling is an author who deals with morality on a huge scale, epic battles of good vs. evil, friendship, loneliness, adolescent turmoil and every other drama you could think of set on a stage featuring dragons and ghosts and goblins. Her knack for making rich as well as lovable characters is her hallmark, so segueing into a world where the characters are not only clueless and blind but also distinctly unlikable couldn't have been very easy for fans. Also, her voice as omniscient third-person narrator is certainly well-written as a stream of prose, but sort of diluted the significance of her characters; Vacancy also lacks the edge that made similar novels by Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) and Maria Semple (Where'd You Go, Bernadette), better. After multiple re-readings of Vacancy, I've grown to like the book a lot more- or rather appreciate it more, because while the craft behind it becomes more obvious with each read its overcast mood is unaccompanied by a payoff.
But this is a crime novel. Why am I excited for this? Because I've always, always thought of The Chamber of Secrets as a mystery novel. You don't even need to look at that book alone to know that Rowling is a master of mystery writing, the seemingly meaningless details sprinkled throughout the Harry Potter series bearing much more gravitas in later installments (much to the chagrin of filmmakers, cutting out important details due to lack of knowledge of said installments). Red herrings and false trails are an essential component in mystery writing, which she is undoubtedly skilled at creating.
So I'll be much more wary of you now Ms. Rowling, and I while I would still prefer that you return to fantasy, or even science-fiction, and even though I sense that you're becoming a very hit-or-miss author, your hits are still potent enough for me to want to read anything and everything you'll ever write again.