Monday, 31 March 2014

The Cuckoos Calling by the Author of He Who Must Not Be Named.

The Cuckoos Calling – Robert Galbraith

We all approached this one knowing it was written by JK Rowling who of course wrote the Harry Potter novels or in this instance the He Who Must Not Be Named novels.

Much to my surprise we had a couple of members who had not read any Harry Pot… sorry… He Who Must Not Be Named and some who had read one or two but hadn’t liked them. Really?? Some of us had read The Casual Vacancy Rowling’s first effort at published adult fiction (not me) but nobody seemed overly impressed by it. So I was curious as to how this book would be reviewed.

We initially discussed why Rowling wrote under a pen name. I could certainly understand why she would want to – clean break, to prove to herself more than anyone that she can write successful adult fiction however we were all a little bit sceptical as to the leak to the press. It all worked out very conveniently in the end.

I was curious as to why she choose a male name – Robert. J.K. I suppose was open to interpretation was open to interpretation so why not a similar ambiguous initial? One member raised the point that people don’t want to read crime novels by women – really? I haven’t spent too much time thinking about this but if it is true it’s interesting.

Anyway whatever her reasons and deliberate leak or not it worked to her advantage as here we are talking about the book.


Let me begin with Cormoran Strike. Excellent name but then she has always been very good at that. Initially I was disappointed that the main character was a broken detective who had once been very good but was now falling apart at the seams. It’s just such a cliché. However this one had a rock star dad and a missing leg so had slightly more going for him than other Detectives I’ve read. Or less I suppose if you are counting limbs.

I thought Robins engagement was an excellent start to the book. It’s unusual to start a crime novel on such a note and it was a good tonic to Strikes initial clichédness (making up words now sorry).

I loved Robin and the highlight of the book to me was Robin and Strikes relationship. I often found their conversations amusing - how their responses and actions would change depending on the others tone of voice. We all liked how Robin pretended not to know that Strike was sleeping in the office. Her character was very interesting, the slow unravelling of her relationship with her fiancé, her childlike enthusiasm at playing detective yet her savvyness and intelligence. She made an excellent sidekick.

We started talking at this point about how good a TV show it would make and I agree. The setting of the book especially would lend itself. A group of probably B list celebrities and the circles they moved in. I enjoyed reading about them and particularly thought the notoriously private author used the opportunity well to have a swipe at the press. Didn’t she have her phone hacked too?

I struggled slightly with names. It took me a paragraph or two to place each character and during the meeting I struggled to remember who was called what. I always think this isn’t a good sign however Strike and Robin were easy to remember which I suppose is the most important thing.

The book was very traditional in some respects with the whole building up of lots of little clues and putting them together in a very Poirot-esque way. The water on the stairs, the removable bag linings for example. Although there could have been a few suspects I didn’t feel like I was deliberately led up the garden path which really annoys me when it comes to crime novels.

The only real weakness I thought - and there is a big spoiler alert here – was why would the killer hire a detective to investigate the murder he committed? Rowling (Galbraith) tried to explain that it was all to do with the missing will but this just didn’t cut it for me.

A real plus point though was the setting up for another book that was very evident even from the off. Playing the long game is something that Rowling did expertly well with the Pot... He Who Must Not Be Named series and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Strike and Robin develop, does he get himself out of debt? Does his father come in to it more? Do we get to hear more about his mother’s death? Does he manage to get somewhere to live? I guess I would read the next one (and there is it’s called The Silkworm). I won’t rush out to buy it, but put in my path I would definitely give it a whirl.

We gave the book 7.5. There were a couple of high scores however one member gave it a 2 on the basis that there was too much going on. I could see her point – there was a lot of setting up for the next book and there was a lot of chapters where seemingly not much happened however like I said it’s a slow build to the Poirot/Columbo like ending and at the risk of sounding like Tesco every little bit helped.

Review over and I’ve only mentioned He Who Should Not Be Named 3 times. Overall then a successful second venture in to the non-wizard world with definite potential for more.

Next book the Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg


Question of the month. I mentioned above that one member suggested that people don’t want to read crime novels by women. Is this true? Who are your favourite crime writers?