J. K. Rowling writes for grownups with her debut in detective fiction

J. K. Rowling writes for grownups in The Cuckoo's Calling.

You’ve heard about this book. In fact, judging from the sales numbers, you may even be reading it now. Within hours of the admission by J. K. Rowling that she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym, and a male one at that, the book began rocketing toward the top of the best-seller lists. Yes, J. K. Rowling writes for grownups in The Cuckoo’s Calling.


The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by J. K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith) (2013) 561 pages

@@@@ (4 out of 5)


Oddly enough, given how unusual it is for best-selling novels to be anything other than the latest product of a fiction factory with a famous author’s name attached, The Cuckoo’s Calling represents a superior example of detective fiction. J. K. Rowling has proven with this book that she can write well for grown-ups as well as fantasy-loving young people, even if she fell short with an earlier venture into adult fiction.

At last, J. K. Rowling writes for grownups

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a well-crafted detective story featuring fascinating but believable characters brought together in a complex web of circumstances surrounding the death of a London supermodel. Lula Landry was 23 when she fell to her death from the balcony of her luxurious apartment onto a snow-covered street in a fashionable district. The police and most of her family insist she committed suicide, but her brother, John Bristow, believes otherwise and hires a down-and-out private detective with a colorful past and the unlikely name of Cormoran Strike.

Strike reluctantly accepts the fat wad of cash Bristow pushes his way and sets out, with his “temporary” secretary, Robin, in tow, to unearth the answers to the few dangling questions in the case. Both she and her boss would be pegged by most casual observers as underachievers, but circumstances forced both of them to drop out from promising debuts at prestigious universities. They’re soon hot on the trail.

As Strike and Robin steadily make their way through the fog of rumor, misunderstanding, and obfuscation that surrounds Landry’s death, they find that lie compounds lie, the past holds terrible secrets, and little is as it seems. Tension builds steadily as the story unfolds, coming to a crescendo in an ending that dazzled me, so surprised was I.

I’m taking odds on whether Rowling turns Strike and Robin into recurring characters in a new series of novels. They’re both eminently likable, Strike particularly, and there’s depth enough to justify dozens more books. I’m looking forward to that.

For additional reading

I’ve reviewed all the books in this series at J. K. Rowling’s thrilling Cormoran Strike detective series. And if this book intrigues you, check out 5 top novels about private detectives.

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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).

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