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Book Cover Image: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert GalbraithTitle: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling
ISBN: 9780316206846
No. of Pages: 456
Genre: Mystery
Origins: Mulholland Books

Bottom Line: Refreshing upgrade on the classic murder mystery
“When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.
Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger…”

Thoughts: A famous model plunges to her death from her third-story flat, and the world mourns for a few frenzied weeks. Such is the life and death of a celebrity. To her family members though, the ruling of death by suicide does not sit well, prompting them to look up an old family friend cum private detective to search for the truth. Enter Cormoran Strike, former military police, wounded in Afghanistan, and now facing the sudden and volatile break-up with his long-time girlfriend. His business is failing, and now that his relationship is over, he has no home. What he does have is a careful attention to detail, a passion for justice, and the intellect necessary to use one to achieve the other. As he goes about his business searching for clues and hard proof to back up his suspicions, he is helped by his extremely competent and adorably innocent secretary, Robin. Together, they ferret out the truth and uncover a surprising plot for fame, money, and glory.

Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling is a true, old-fashioned murder mystery, albeit without the misogynistic, machismo tendencies such novels traditionally have. In true detective novel fashion, it is the characters that makes the story so enjoyable. Cormoran Strike is at once sympathetic and more than a bit scary. He is hairy, large, and extremely capable. There is a coldness to him, due to his past experiences in the military, that makes itself known in every little action and word. Yet, he is endearingly sweet, careful around his loved ones, and still very vulnerable thanks to his mental and physical wounds. It is this vulnerability onto which a reader will latch, as he struggles to pull his life back together while attempting to discern the truth. Similarly, Robin is a delightful counterpoint to Cormoran’s fumblings. She is exceedingly competent at her job, appears delicate but has a backbone of steel when needed, and has the type of caring attitude that her boss needs to further his healing. Moreover, she is intelligent and very good at thinking on her feet, something Cormoran appreciates, recognizes as a huge asset, and for which gives her credit. Robin is not the bimbo secretary there to take his calls and organize his schedule and files, nor does he treat her like one. Theirs is definitely a modern-day partnership, with all the respect and appreciation good working relationships generate.

The Cuckoo’s Calling harkens back to old-school detective novels. Cormoran has all the modern-day sensitivities even if he is a man’s man with his massive bulk, his non-metrosexual body hair, military history and accolades, and intimidating demeanor. Robin, for all her tidiness and appearance of delicacy, is the perfect foil for Comoran, and together they make a great team. Also, the story itself is one of the few mysteries in recent months that actually remains a mystery until the very end. The use of well-hidden clues and plenty of red herrings excel at throwing readers off the scent of the truth. Mirroring Cormoran’s detective work, the novel is methodical and deliberate, and while there is little action, the resolution is as satisfactory as it is surprising because of the time Mr. Galbraith takes in developing his characters and establishing the plot. Because of the care Mr. Galbraith takes to establish his story, The Cuckoo’s Calling is not meant for slapdash, quick reading. Instead, it requires the same deliberately slow reading pace used to set the tone of the novel. However, because the story is so careful and exacting in its details, a reader will not mind at all to spend a little more time with the adorable Robin and vulnerable yet daunting Cormoran Strike.

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