What’s in a name? Ditch Shakespeare – ask JK Rowling instead. Post her insane Harry Potter series, the lady tried her luck in adult fiction with The Casual Vacancy. Though it was the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during its first week of release, The Casual Vacancy did not do as well as expected. Most thought that perhaps it would be better for the author to relegate her creative talents to boy wizards instead.
But then there was The Cuckoo’s Calling
The Cuckoo’s Calling can be considered as the introductory novel for private detective Cormoran Strike, a war veteran. He has only a few clients, is under massive debts and thanks to his break-up, lives in his office. Strike is hired by John Bristow who wants him to investigate the death of his adopted sister Lula Landry. Lula, a professional model and the next big thing in the model-verse with her mixed-race good looks and charm, is killed in a fall from the top floor of her apartment.
The story travels through London’s poshest locales to shady bars and back to the heart of the rich and the famous as Strike tries to unravel Lula’s story one character at a time.
While, one must admit, it is almost impossible to not miss the Harry Potter kind of adventure as one follows Strike though the story – one can try to keep Rowling away from the cover page and then think of the book. The story is very simply woven, there are no intricate world conspiracies involved. It comes across as one of those good detective stories that begin with a mystery that needs solving, wrapping up well in completion, providing all necessary answers and explanations. You will want to read more of Strike, but along the lines of what he might do next, what case comes along and does he get back with his girlfriend. But the book wraps up the mystery well and good.
The best part of the Cuckoo’s Calling is perhaps the character constructions. Each and every character in the book is drawn up extremely well, not with a plentitude of unnecessary narration that provides history, but with perfect interjections throughout the narrative that builds up a face, an identity and even a behavior trait, one molecule at a time. By the end of it all – there isn't one character that will come across as incomplete. You will want to know more – simply because the people are so interesting.
This trait of great characters will take you back to Harry Potter because that is one saga where each and every character is magically drawn up with histories intact, without the information overload in any one novel. That is perhaps Rowlings’ winning trait. She draws up identities so well that it hooks the readers. It worked for Harry Potter and it has definitely worked for The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Cormoran Strike is no Sherlock Holmes, neither does he try to be. His personal life is in absolute disarray and he lives in his office. He lost his leg in Afghanistan and while the missing limb plagues him emotionally and physically, Strike isn't one to play it to his advantage or disadvantage. The war and the injury gives Strike this gritty stoicism that is almost endearing. He isn't a good looking man but then he seems to have this quality that somehow works with women. And no, he isn't a casanova.
BBC reported that Rowling sent the manuscript of The Cuckoo’s Calling to the publishers anonymously and at least one publishing house declined it.
It was eventually accepted by Sphere Books, which is an imprint of Little, Brown & Company, with whom Rowling had collaborated on her previous novel, The Casual Vacancy. The book surged from 4,709th to the 1st best-selling novel on Amazon after it was revealed on 14 July that the book was written by Rowling under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.
Rowling apparently said she would have liked to remain anonymous for a while longer. She was quoted as saying, ‘Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience… It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.’ Tough luck it seems!
Should one read The Cuckoo’s Calling, especially after the insipid The Casual Vacancy? Yes, definitely. Now that Potter and his friends are gone and there’s no other way into Hogwarts, Strike is definitely a figure that would capture your mind, and once this mystery is solved – you would inevitably want more. You cannot credit the book to Galbraith, it is simply impossible, you have to credit it to Rowling. Whether the name worked or the story itself – we leave it to you to work it out. But for us – the book did and we can’t wait for Strike to come about again.