Before the news about J.K. Rowling writing a crime-detective novel under pseudonym Robert Galbraith leaked, I didn’t have any idea about this book. But, the combination of ‘crime-detective’ and ‘J.K. Rowling effect’ has instantly tickled my curiosity. Years ago, before delving into classics and literary fiction, crime-detective has been my passion—Agatha Christie was my first acquaintance with adult fiction. So, knowing that J.K. Rowling writes a crime novel, I knew right away that it would have been a combination of detective investigation and psychological conflict of the characters, just like Agatha Christie. But, knowing J.K. Rowling now too well, I also guessed that the characters and the conflicts would be much more livid than Agatha Christie’s. Not only that my prediction turned out to be quite accurate, J.K. Rowling slipped another surprise at the end too!
Lula Landry (sounds too similar with Luna Lovegood, eh?) is a celebrated young model; she is half black and adopted by a rich white family. One night she fell from the third floor balcony of her apartment. Considering her problematic background, testimonies and several evidences, the police, the press, and even most of her adopted family have concluded that it was a suicide. Everyone but John Bristow, a lawyer, Lula’s adopted brother.
Far from being celebrated, Cormoran Strike is a war veteran who—although the son of a celebrity—chooses to build his own career as a private detective. He is on the verge of collapse—with zero prospective client, and not even a residence—before colliding (literally) with a pretty secretary named Robin Ellacott, a temporary secretary whom Cormoran could not afford to pay. However, five minutes after Robin sits on her new desk at her new office, a client comes bringing a solid case. Of course, it is John Bristow, bringing the case of Lula Landry’s death, which he believes is a murder.
I don’t know exactly how I should describe this novel, other than…I just love it! It is very “Rowling”—if you know what I mean. It’s not like Agatha Christie, whose crime fictions are pure crime and detective stories, with a trace of psychological analysis aspect (especially in Poirot’s). With Rowling, we know she has never been focusing in one genre in particular. Harry Potter—after we finished reading the series—turns out to be a story about human nature; what one would have become when he grows up is determined not only by society, but more importantly by his own choices. We call it fantasy novel, but the fantasy is merely the setting.
The same thing applies with The Cuckoo’s Calling. If you are a fan of crime-detective stories (hi there, Sherlockians!..), you might find this Cormoran Strike bloke far away from what an ideal detective would be. I myself am quite disappointed with his records. Strike is not a superhero, he has too many weaknesses, he’s not even charming (far from that!). I even find Strike’s method is similar to Hercule Poirot’s methodical order; letting every one talking, taking seriously every small evidences, and put them all to complete a puzzle. Yes, I tasted a bit of Agatha Christie here, and so there’s nothing new in it.
But more than that, Strike is very humane. And this is what I love from this book. It’s not just about Strike’s investigation of the case, it’s also about Strike’s own struggles to be released from his past, and to rearrange his life. Although Rowling doesn’t give too much portion to Robin here, she is also in search of her own life. I predict that in the next series, she would be much wiser to make the right decision of her future. And I very much hope that she would not be like Batman’s Robin who appears only in a few stories. I really like her intellectual (another Hermione??) and her interest in detective works; while besides that, she is just an ordinary girl who likes beautiful dresses, and gets up-to-date with celebrities news. Yes, I like someone ordinary who has a unique interest that makes her distinguish from others.
*spoiler alert* And I am very curious of this boss-secretary relationship, would Rowling keep those sparks of attraction between them in the next series?... *spoiler ends*
Last but not least, Rowling’s surprise at the ending makes this novel becomes more than just a detective story. I might even say, it is a literary novel with crime-detective theme. Near the end of the story, ‘who the murderer is’ is no longer important for me, because I am much more touched by what happens in our own society. How often it is, that people put judgment to other just because of our backgrounds. It’s like: if you come from certain background, you must have the typical bad qualities that others from your ‘kind’ share. So, if something bad happen to you, well….it’s just that, no one surprised, and you just deserve that. Luckily, there are sometimes people like Strike, who comes from a high background, but has enough wisdom and conscience to seek only the truth. So, in a way, Strike is a new hero!
Five stars for the first title in the Cormoran Strike series, and I would wait patiently for the second title Rowling will write; because you know….the long waiting would be much worth in the end!
*I read e-book version*
*This book is counted for:*
6th book for 2013 TBRR Pile Mystery Reading Challenge