|(Photo Source: Mulholland Books)|
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As everyone knows by now, Robert Galbraith is actually Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who released The Cuckoo's Calling back in April under a pseudonym, and no one knew until last month when someone did some detective work of their own and found out who the true writer was.
What makes this whole situation even more brilliant than just writing under a fake name is she went even so far as to write a bio for Galbraith: "After several years with the Royal Military Police, Robert Galbraith was attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world."
Because of this, I'm pissed off at the publisher for removing the bio from subsequent printings. Yeah, we all know the real writer now, but c'mon, including things like the bio is all part of the experience. And that's why I've been kicking myself for not immediately buying a copy from the initial print-run, and I can't even buy it used because people are selling them for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. But I digress...
Getting into the review now (and keep in mind there will be some spoilers throughout, including who the killer is), two things make this book stand out: the writing and the depth/realism of the characters.
Strike is not your ordinary detective. Jo writes him with such detail and we get to know him on a very personal level all throughout the book. There's layers and a depth to him as a character, and that's a huge part of what makes Cuckoo's Calling stand out when it could easily have been thrown in with every other detective/crime novel where you don't could get attached to the characters. His backstory in the army, the prosthetic leg, the ex-fiance, etc.--all of these are things that will most likely carry through into future stories. Obviously, each book I'm sure will focus on a different case, but Strike's own story and struggles will be that constant that remains (along with the substory of Robin and Matthew).
Strike and Robin have great camaraderie--even though she was always expected to leave the secretarial position eventually, it's obvious that because of their connection and how much they enjoyed working with each other that something would happen where she'd end up staying, and it's a delight, though predictable, when that indeed happens in the epilogue.
There are a lot of characters introduced throughout, and many of them could easily get lost in the shuffle to the point where you're going, who was this person again? But Jo makes each stand out so that when they're brought back into the fold, you remember who they are and can picture them again in your mind while reading.
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With both The Casual Vacancy and this new novel, Jo's able to provide more mature stories and present them in a more mature manner that she wasn't able to do before with Harry Potter. (Part of that is the noticeable inclusion of quite a bit of profanity, but it's not distracting and does not take away from the plot at all.) And this is all part of her growing as a writer and being able to explore other areas she wasn't able to before when she confined to writing a fantasy series marketed towards children.
"Strike understood the appeal of gilded cherubs and plaster saints, of gargoyles and Old Testament angels, of gem-set golden crucifixes; anything that might give an aura of majesty of grandeur, a firm promise of an afterlife, or retrospect worth to a life like Rochelle's." -- from The Cuckoo's Calling (page 392)