The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) is a quick, light read for anyone bogged down with real-world problems. Rowling’s attempt at the mystery subgenre of Mayhem Parva introduces the readers to limited settings in London, eccentric yet oddly normal characters, and a “domestic mystery” in an alleged murder.
Rowling’s protagonists, Cormoran Strike and his temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott, repeat the trope of a disheveled detective and his quick-witted Girl Friday with a contemporary, fame-obsessed twist. Strike, a wounded former military officer is paired with Robin on the day a major case is brought to his private investigative office. John Bristow approaches Strike to investigate his late sister’s murder. Bristow’s sister, Luna Landry, is a beautiful supermodel whose sudden death is believed by all to be suicide. Strike, initially convinced that Landry committed suicide, takes on the case, and thus ensues the mystery of the plot.
The novel is eerily reminiscent of stories from TMZ, the celebrity news website. Strike, whose own celebrity roots imparts the plot with the rejection of celebrity life, knows exactly the personalities of the rich, famous, and unhappy that he needs to investigate. He and Robin spend the majority of the plot interviewing Luna’s dysfunctional family members, high fashion insiders, and hip-hop royalty. For those interested, this novel lends itself quite nicely to literary analysis through gender and pop culture studies.
Though the novel’s climax is somewhat predictable, The Cuckoo’s Calling provides us with a new set of captivating characters that promise an amusing ride through the glitz and glamour of London’s upper class.